Lesser-Included Offense Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Lesser-Included Offense, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Lesser-Included Offense?

(n) Lesser-Included Offence are the higher degree crimes which are pleaded as lower degree crime, buy taking the cover of the situation. Eg. In a charge for driving recklessly under the influence of alcohol, the defended pleads to charge him just for careless driving because he was not intoxicated beyond the legal limit.

History and Meaning of Lesser-Included Offense

A lesser-included offense is a criminal charge that is a component of a greater charge. A lesser-included offense is considered to be part of a larger offense because the lesser-included charge contains all of the same elements as the greater charge but requires the prosecutor to prove fewer facts. A defendant cannot be charged with both the greater offense and the lesser-included offense simultaneously in the same case.

The concept of lesser-included offenses has been present in the legal system for centuries, but it was not formally recognized in the United States until the 20th century. Before that, prosecutors were required to charge defendants with the most serious offense that matched the alleged crime, with no room for including lesser charges.

Examples of Lesser-Included Offense

  • Assault and battery: Assault is a lesser-included offense of battery, because all the elements of assault are included in a battery charge, along with additional elements.
  • Larceny and theft: Larceny is a lesser-included offense of theft, as it involves taking someone else's property without permission, but not the use of force or the threat of force.
  • Murder and manslaughter: Depending on the circumstances of the crime, a person charged with murder may also be charged with manslaughter, as it is a lesser-included offense of murder.

Legal Terms Similar to Lesser-Included Offense

  • Included offense: A charge that is part of another, more serious charge but does not necessarily contain all of the elements of the other charge.
  • Overlapping offenses: Charges that share some but not all of the same elements, such as reckless driving and driving under the influence.