Have you ever heard of stacked sentences? Maybe you’ve heard it in a court judgment, or someone you know had one passed against them, and you don’t know what it means.
What is a stacked sentence?
Well, a stacked sentence is where two sentences are consecutively served by a person for multiple offenses. For example, where someone is convicted of more than one crime at the same trial and is sentenced to prison for all the crimes, these sentences are stacked if they serve them one after the other.
For example, if you are convicted for theft and conspiracy and sentenced to 24 months for each crime, your stacked sentence would be 48 months, served consecutively.
Typically, defendants are sentenced for multiple crimes at the same court hearing if they arise from a single incident, for example, where a bank robber is charged for robbery and possessing an unlicensed firearm.
An accused person may also face sentencing for multiple crimes if they committed the crime many times. For example, where one is accused of fraud in several cases of forging documents or identity theft.
What’s the difference between a stacked sentence and a concurrent sentence?
A stacked sentence should not be confused with a concurrent sentence, which is where a person is convicted for the same crime twice and is given the same years to serve, but only serves one jail term equal to the longest duration.
For example, if a man is charged for theft twice and is sentenced to 2 and 4 years, respectively for the crimes, he will only be expected to serve a 4-year sentence and not a 6- year jail term, as would be the case in a stacked sentence.
Therefore, a defendant convicted to a concurrent jail term serves a shorter sentence than one with a stacked sentence.
Generally, judges impose a concurrent jail term on defendants that deserve leniency or where the crimes are connected.
Which laws govern stacked and concurrent sentences?
The statute that governs stacked sentences in the U.S. is 18 U.S. Code § 3584, which covers multiple sentences of imprisonment.
In Texas, the article of law that guides the courts on whether to stack sentences or not is the Texas code of criminal procedure 42.08.
What factors are considered before stacking a defendant’s sentence?
The courts look at certain factors when deciding whether or not to stack a sentence. These are;
- Whether the crimes were committed in different places or times
- A defendant’s criminal record; Are you a career criminal?
- Whether the crimes a defendant is being convicted of and their objectives were independent of each other.
Although in Texas defendants choose whether to have the judge or jury decide on the punishment to give for multiple crimes, the judge ultimately decides whether to stack the sentences or run them concurrently.
Examples of situations where stacked sentencing applies
A judge is not allowed to stack a sentence if the offenses that one is convicted of are part of what is referred to as “the same criminal episode,” and they (the offenses) are prosecuted as one criminal action. However, if a defendant decides to separate the cases that arise from the same criminal episode, they may get a stacked sentence.
The term “same criminal episode” refers to a situation where offenses are committed pursuant to a joint plan. A good example is where one is convicted of attempting to commit a crime and committing it.
Take, for instance, a situation where a person tries to kill someone and fails, then later tries again and succeeds, they cannot be convicted of attempted murder and murder consecutively.
The law also allows for criminals convicted of multiple sentences for certain crimes such as sex offenses against minors, arising from the same criminal episode, to get a stacked sentence under section 3.03 (b) of the Texas Penal Code.
Where an inmate is convicted of a crime while in the Texas Department of Corrections, the judge can have the new sentence stacked with the ongoing one. Therefore, the convict will start serving the new sentence immediately; the current one is over.
If a convicted person feels a judge has stacked a sentence against him or her unfairly, they can appeal the judge’s decision on the grounds of abuse of discretion.
Do you have questions about a stacked sentence?
If you or someone you know is facing multiple cases that may be stacked, it is highly recommended to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney in North Texas about it. They will guide you on how to go about it to avoid a lengthy jail term. They will also inform you whether the sentences should be stacked or not. If the defendant is lucky, he or she may only have to serve a concurrent sentence. Call us today on 972-325-1758 for advice on stacked sentences and any other criminal law issues.