Understanding Consecutive and Concurrent SentencingIn Kentucky, if you are convicted of multiple criminal offenses, then your sentence will either run concurrently or consecutively. The difference between the two can mean years in prison.When a sentence runs concurrently, a defendant serves all sentences at the same time. Consider a person who was convicted of burglary in the second degree (with a potential sentence of 5 to 10 years) and possession of a controlled substance in the first degree (with a potential sentence of 1 to 3 years). If their sentence is served concurrently, then the sentence for the drug charge begins at the same time that the burglary sentence begins — so that he or she is eligible for release when the sentence for the burglary charge has ended.With consecutive sentencing, a defendant has to finish serving the sentence for one offense before he or she can start saving the sentence for another offense. In the example above, assume that the sentence for the burglary was 5 years and the sentence for drug possession was 3 years. With consecutive sentencing, the sentence for the drug charge will not start until after the 5-year sentence for the burglary charge has been completed.The difference between the two sentences in this example is significant. With concurrent sentences, our fictional defendant would spend a total of 5 years in prison. With consecutive sentences, he would be in prison for 8 years.
When Is Consecutive or Concurrent Sentencing Required Under Kentucky Law?As a general rule, judges have wide discretion in sentencing defendants in criminal cases. This includes imposing consecutive and concurrent sentences. However, there are some situations in which Kentucky law requires either consecutive or concurrent sentences.Kentucky Revised Statute §532.110 lists multiple situations where a sentence must either run concurrently or consecutively, and provides guidelines for how these sentences can be imposed. Under the law:
- If a defendant is sentenced to a definite and an indefinite term of imprisonment, the terms must run concurrently, and conclude when the indefinite term has been satisfied;
- The total of consecutive definite terms must not exceed 1 year;
- The total of consecutive indefinite terms must not exceed the maximum length the longest extended term for the highest class of crime authorized under Kentucky Revised Statue §532.080. The total of consecutive indeterminate terms must not exceed 70 years;
- If a defendant is convicted of 2 or more felony sex crimes involving 2 or more victims, his or her sentences shall run consecutively;
- If a person commits an offense while incarcerated or during an escape, then his or her sentence may be added to their current sentence, to run consecutively;
- If a person is on felony parole, probation or conditional discharge, and is convicted of a felony while on release, and his or her sentence shall not run concurrently with any other sentence; and
- If a person is convicted of an offense while awaiting trial for another offense, the sentence imposed for the offense committed while waiting for trial shall not run concurrently with confinement for the offense for which the person is awaiting trial.