Consecutive Sentence

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Multiple prison terms that are to be served one after another after the defendant is convicted of the corresponding criminal offenses.  That is, when convicted of multiple offenses, judges may sentence the defendant to serve the sentences back-to-back.  Consecutive sentences are distinct from concurrent sentences, whereby convicted defendants serve for a duration equal to the length of the longest sentence.  Thus, concurrent sentences are typically considered more favorable for defendants.  For example, if a defendant is convicted and sentenced for two six-year sentences and one three-year sentence, he/she would only serve six years under concurrent sentencing but would serve fifteen years under consecutive sentencing.  For either type of sentence to apply, the defendant must be convicted of multiple sentences.  According to the Supreme Court case Oregon v. Ice, judges often have the discretion to decide between the types of sentencing.  Judges may select concurrent sentencing out of mercy, plea bargaining, or other reasons.  Consecutive sentences can also be referred as “cumulative sentences.”

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]