A concurrent sentence refers to a type of sentence judges are able to give defendants convicted of more than one crime. Instead of serving each sentence one after another, a concurrent sentence allows the defendant to serve all of their sentences at the same time, where the longest period of time is controlling.
In Oregon v. Ice, the Supreme Court held that states could give judges the discretion to decide whether a convicted defendant will serve a concurrent or consecutive sentence. There are some cases in which the judge will have no discretion in this matter because a state law may require a consecutive sentence.
A few years after the Supreme Court decision in Oregon v. Ice, Congress passed 18 U.S. Code § 3584, which provides judges discretion to decide whether the sentences will run consecutively or concurrently. The statute also states that the default rule is for concurrent sentences unless the state statute calls for consecutive sentences or the judge finds a consecutive sentence would be the best outcome in the case. If a person is convicted of attempting to commit a crime and actually committing the crime, then the judge will be restricted from giving the defendant a consecutive sentence. For example, someone who has been sentenced for attempted murder and murder, can’t serve a consecutive sentence. The statute also provides a list of factors judges should consider when determining what sentence to give defendants.
[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]