How Do Multiple Convictions Affect My Sentence?

Attorneys often hear this question—how do multiple convictions affect a sentence?  Being convicted of more than one crime may have a big impact on a criminal defendant’s sentence or “punishment.” This issue comes up in the context of convictions for the same offense such as multiple DUIs, multiple convictions for different things, and multiple convictions for the purposes of qualifying for California’s ‘3 strikes’ law.

Multiple Convictions in Federal Court

The U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) is a federal agency within the judicial branch of the government that develops sentencing guidelines for the U.S. federal courts.  There are two kinds of courts in this country–federal courts and state courts.  Criminal cases involving federal laws can be tried only in federal court (but most criminal cases involve violations of state law and are tried in state court). Examples of federal crimes include bringing illegal drugs into the country or across state lines.  If you find yourself in federal court, the judge may consider the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s guidelines.  The 2011 Federal Sentencing Manual §5G1.2 basically requires multiple conviction sentences to run consecutively unless the court decides otherwise or the specific law that defendant broke says differently.  If the judge wants otherwise, s/he must specify in the sentence.

Consecutive vs. Concurrent Sentences

A consecutive sentence (also called a “cumulative” sentence) is when a defendant has been convicted of more than one crime, usually at the same trial, and the sentences for each crime are served one after the other.  For example, if a defendant is convicted of three crimes that carry sentences of five, three, and two years, he’ll serve 10 years in prison.  A concurrent sentence is when sentences on more than one crime “run” or are served at the same time, rather than one after the other. For instance, if a defendant’s three crimes carry sentences of five, three, and two years, the maximum time he’ll spend in jail is 5 years.

Multiple Convictions in State Court

In California, like any other state, a judge may also specify whether s/he wants a sentence to run concurrently or consecutively.  Moreover, there have been some recent changes in California’s stringent “3 Strikes” laws.  Back in 2014, the California Supreme Court ruled that 2 felony convictions stemming from a single act may not be considered separate strikes under the state’s “3 strikes” sentencing law.  Rather, it only served as 1 strike for the purposes of that law.  In the past, the court has ruled that two felonies may be treated as separate strikes even if they were prosecuted in a single trial.  This has affected the sentencing for those with multiple convictions.

San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases, including multiple sentences cases, and prior convictions for DUIs, and 3 strike cases.  We are dedicated to protecting your constitutional rights and freedom, and have successfully represented many defendants.  We will pour over the evidence against you and challenge everything we can to keep you out of jail.