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Concurrent sentences means that if the defendant has multiple sentences when he serves time for one sentence the time is also deducted from sentences that run concurrently with that sentence. Consecutive sentences means the defendant must complete one sentence before beginning to serve the next sentence,
This is an important issue in Oklahoma state court. When a defendant is charged with multiple charges or counts, there is a big incentive for that defendant to plea bargain the case. The reason for that incentive is that if the defendant proceeds to trial and is convicted by a jury than the custom in most counties is that the sentences will run consecutively, that is one after the other.
To understand why this is important consider a defendant who is charged with five (5) counts of Knowingly Concealing Stolen Property, a crime that carries no more than five (5) years in prison. If the defendant choses to proceed to trial and is convicted on all five (5) counts and given a three (3) year sentence per count than most judges in Oklahoma will run those counts consecutively at sentencing. This means that the defendant will be sentenced to 15 years in prison. If that defendant turned down a two (2) or even three (3) year plea offer, that defendant will be sentenced to an additional twelve (12) or even thirteen (13) years in prison because he or she was convicted by a jury instead of convicted by a plea bargain.
This creates a huge incentive for defendants charged with multiple counts or facing multiple cases to resolve their case with a plea bargain instead of proceeding to trial. This also becomes an issue when defendants are charged with multiple felony cases in the same or different counties.
Negotiating concurrent sentences instead of consecutive sentences can make a huge difference in the amount of actual time a defendant spends in prison.
This is also a common issue when a defendant is faced with a state and a federal case at the same time. Federal courts will not run the sentences they impose concurrent with state sentences. Therefore, a defendant who is facing both federal charges and an Oklahoma state charge must receive his federal sentence first if he or she hopes to have the sentences served concurrently.
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