It’s not unusual for defendants in a criminal case to face multiple charges stemming from a single arrest. For example, you could end up facing charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI), resisting arrest, assault on a police officer, drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia — all from a single drunk driving stop that didn’t go very well.
When the evidence against you is overwhelming, a successful outcome of your case may be focused around mitigating the fallout of your conviction – not trying to get the case dismissed or a “not guilty” verdict.
If that’s your situation, understanding how sentencing might work can help you both better plan for your future. In particular, if you’re going to plead guilty to (or are convicted of) multiple charges, you should understand how concurrent and consecutive sentences work.
What’s a concurrent sentence?
Each crime carries its own sentence, but the court may be willing (after much negotiation) to let those sentences run concurrently. If so, that’s a distinct advantage to you. That means that you can serve your time for multiple crimes all at once.
In other words, if you’re sentenced to a year in prison for drunk driving and another year for drug possession, a concurrent sentence means you’ll only serve one year total.
What’s a consecutive sentence?
Consecutive sentencing is distinctly more punitive. That means that the sentences for each of your offenses are tacked “end-to-end” so that you have to serve the time for each sentence by itself.
In other words, if you get a year in prison for the DWI and another year for the drugs, consecutive sentencing means you’ll serve two years.
The more you know about how the criminal justice system works, the better you can participate in your own defense. Make sure that you have experienced legal guidance as you explore your options.