What is the difference between concurrent and consecutive sentences?

An issue that often arises, when there are multiple convictions, is that sentences run concurrently (together) and consecutively (back to back). It is not hard to see how this can become a huge issue.

Imagine a case in which a person is convicted of 5 crimes, each of which carries a sentence of 13 months of prison. If sentenced concurrently, the convicted person receives 13 months of prison. If they are eligible for good time, that sentence could drop as much as 20-30%.

Now, imagine a case in which a person is convicted of the same 5 crimes and facing the same sentence of 13 months for each count. In this case, however, let’s suppose the person is to be sentenced consecutively. Now, instead of being sentenced to 13 months, this offender gets 65 months (or 5 years and 5 months) of prison. Let’s also assume here they can receive a reduction of 20-30% in the sentence.

Thus, the calculation now is: For the concurrent scenario, 13 months with reduction equals 9.1-10.4 months. In the consecutive scenario, 65 months with reduction equals 45.5-52 months. It is not hard to see why the distinction is so important.

When sentences run concurrently and when they run consecutively is an often misunderstood issue. However, it is extremely important that the correct scheme is used or a person could risk spending a much greater amount of time in prison than required by law.

Rob Crow
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Licensed to practice law in all State & Federal Courts in Oregon.
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