In most cases, when a defendant is convicted of multiple criminal charges arising out of a criminal trial, the sentences automatically run concurrently, or at the same time. However, the court will issue an order for the sentences to be stacked, or run consecutively, in selected circumstances. When this occurs, the defendant must finish serving one sentence before he or she begins serving another. As a result, the defendant could end up serving a much longer prison term.
Whether a defendant opts for the jury or the judge to decide their sentence in a criminal proceeding, the judge ultimately determines whether the sentences will run concurrently or consecutively. Tex. Code of Crim. Procedure § 42.08 gives judges the authority to stack criminal sentences, whether the sentences are imposed or suspended. This provision gives judges broad discretion in stacking sentences.
In deciding whether to stack sentences, judges can consider various factors, including whether:
- The crimes were committed separately or independently of one another
- The crimes involved separate acts or threats of violence
- The crimes were committed at different times or at the same time
Judges must stack sentences in one situation. If the defendant committed a crime while an inmate in a Texas prison and serving an unrelated sentence, the new sentence will be consecutive or stack with the first sentence.
The law outlines some circumstances in which judges may not stack sentences. Generally, if multiple criminal charges arise from one episode and are prosecuted together, the sentences must run concurrently. If, however, the defendant files a motion to sever the charges so that he or she will face two or more separate trials, there is a risk that the sentences will be stacked. Likewise, some other criminal offenses also may be stacked, even if they stem from the same episode of criminal conduct, including some sex offenses.
An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and explore your options. We can then help you make the decisions that are mostly like to be beneficial to you based on your situation. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.