Concurrent vs Consecutive Prison Sentences: What Is the Difference?– Written By Naphtal
When it comes to criminal justice, one of the most critical decisions a judge can make is sentencing a defendant. There are two main types of sentences: concurrent and consecutive.
Concurrent or consecutive sentences will only come up when the accused gets one trial for multiple crimes.
For example, if a person is convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery, the judge will have to decide whether the defendant will serve both sentences simultaneously or one after the other.
So, what is the difference between concurrent and consecutive prison sentences? Read on to find out everything you need to know.
What Are Concurrent Sentences?
The term concurrent sentence is used when two or more crimes are tried together, and the defendant is given one sentence for all crimes.
Concurrent sentences are served at the same time. So, if a person is sentenced to 20 years in prison on one charge and ten years in prison on another, they will serve both sentences simultaneously and be released after 20 years.
So, instead of serving the ten-year sentence and 20-year sentence separately, both sentences run simultaneously, and the convict is released at the end of the longest sentence.
What Are Consecutive Sentences?
Consecutive sentences, on the other hand, are given when multiple crimes are tried together, but the defendant is given separate sentences for each crime.
This means that the convict will serve one sentence, and then once they are done with that sentence, they will start serving the next sentence.
For example, if a person is sentenced to 20 years in prison on one charge and ten years in prison on another, they will serve the 20-year sentence first and then serve the 10-year sentence.
This means that the person will not be released until they have served both sentences, which would be a total of 30 years.
So, if the court orders consecutive sentences, it means that the convict will have to serve the highest number of years behind bars, unlike concurrent sentences.
Concurrent vs Consecutive Prison Sentences: Major Differences
Based on the above explanations, you might already know the major difference between concurrent and consecutive sentences.
However, let us break down the key differences between concurrent and consecutive sentences for a better understanding.
While concurrent sentences tend to shorten the jail time of a convict, consecutive prison sentences have the opposite effect as they tend to increase jail time.
This is because concurrent sentences are served simultaneously while consecutive sentences are served one after the other.
It means that if a convict has two five-year sentences, they will only serve five years if the sentences are concurrent but will have to serve ten years if the sentences are consecutive.
Concurrent sentences are usually given for less serious crimes, while consecutive sentences are given for more serious crimes.
The primary objective of consecutive sentences is to increase the punishment for a more serious crime.
For instance, if a person is convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery, the judge will most likely give consecutive sentences as first-degree murder is a more serious crime.
How Are These Sentences Determined?
Now, one of the big questions you might be asking yourself is how are these sentences determined? Who decides whether a person will have to serve concurrent or consecutive sentences?
The answer is that it depends on the judge and the severity of the charges in question.
After the defendant is found guilty of multiple crimes, it is up to the judge to decide whether they will serve concurrent or consecutive sentences.
However, there are certain factors that the judge will consider before making a decision.
Some of the factors that the judge will consider include the severity of the crimes, the criminal history of the defendant, and whether the defendant is a threat to society.
Based on these factors, the judge will decide whether concurrent or consecutive sentences are more appropriate.
What Are the Defendant’s Rights at the Sentence Hearing?
Before the sentence is handed down, the defendant has certain rights that they can exercise.
One of these rights is the right to allocution, allowing the defendant to speak on their own behalf before the sentence is decided.
This is an opportunity for the defendant to explain their side of the story and ask for leniency from the judge.
Another right that the defendant has is the right to counsel, which allows them to have an attorney present during the sentencing hearing.
The attorney can help the defendant by arguing for a reduced sentence or a sentence that is more lenient than what the prosecutor is asking for.
In some cases, the defendant might also have the right to a jury trial, which would allow a jury of their peers to decide on the sentence.
In conclusion, concurrent and consecutive sentences are two types of sentences that a person can receive if convicted of multiple crimes.
Concurrent sentences are served simultaneously, while consecutive sentences are usually served one after the other.
The main difference between these two types of sentences is that concurrent sentences tend to shorten the jail time of a convict, while consecutive sentences have the opposite effect as they tend to increase jail time.
The decision of whether to give concurrent or consecutive sentences is up to the judge and is based on factors such as the severity of the crimes, the criminal history of the defendant, and whether the defendant is a threat to society.
This article is written by Naphtal. He is the brand manager at Legal Giant and a highly experienced content writer. Legal Giant is a leading lawyer referral site with clients all over the U.S. When Naphtal is not working, he enjoys spending time with his son and exploring nature.