Skip to Content
State and Federal Criminal Defense Representation

What is the Difference Between a Consecutive Sentence and a Concurrent Sentence?


If an individual is convicted on multiple charges, there may come a decision on whether they should serve consecutive or concurrent sentences. These two legal terms sound similar, and many of us have probably heard them before. But if you’re up on charges, it is important to know that they represent very different outcomes.

If the accused is facing two years of prison time on their first charge, and another two years on an additional charge, a consecutive sentence would ask that they serve these sentences back-to-back. In other words, they would be ordered to serve four years in prison. Also known as “stacked” sentencing, a consecutive sentence is bad news, as it asks you to finish serving time on one count before you can serve your time on the other.

Concurrent sentencing says that the convicted person will serve both charges simultaneously. If they received two years on Count 1 and three years on Count 2, their total sentence would be three years. This is the preferred scenario if convicted.

How Do Judges Decide Between Consecutive and Concurrent Sentencing?

The default, under federal law, is for convicted individuals to serve their sentences concurrently. However, this can be altered if the statute calls for it. Ultimately, though, the decision comes down to the judge (or judges).

There are few guidelines directing judges on how they should decide these matters. Their decision may be heavily affected by whether the convicted person committed multiple, separate acts of criminality.

Could Consecutive and Concurrent Sentences Be Discussed in Plea Deals?

You and your criminal defense attorney may be able to fight for concurrent sentencing in a plea bargain. Under the guidelines, it is possible to group “Closely Related Counts” together, meaning counts which caused similar harm.

Sometimes the difference between someone serving consecutive or concurrent sentences comes down to lawyers working out a good plea agreement. For help working on a plea deal, speak with a criminal defense lawyer.

What Aggravating or Mitigating Factors Could Impact Sentencing?

Certain aggravating factors may negatively impact someone’s sentencing, resulting in a higher likelihood of serving consecutive sentences. These factors could include:

  • Abuse of power.
  • Evidence that the crime was premeditated.
  • Multiple victims or incidents.
  • Non-cooperation with law enforcement and investigation.
  • Previous convictions.
  • Worse harm was intended.

Mitigation factors could help your case, however, making the judge more lenient in sentencing. These factors may include:

  • Committed the crimes under duress.
  • No criminal record.
  • Offender was very young or elderly.
  • Only served a small role in the criminal offense.
  • Shows deep remorse.
  • Suffers from a disability of some kind.

Contact our law firm at (949) 990-4195 for legal assistance today.

The post What is the Difference Between a Consecutive Sentence and a Concurrent Sentence? appeared first on Law Office of Diane C. Bass, A Professional Law Corporation.