what is concurrence in criminal law?

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By Merry Rose

In the realm of criminal law, sentencing plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate punishment for offenders. Among the various sentencing methods, “concurrency” is an important concept that impacts how multiple sentences for different crimes are served. This article aims to delve into the depths of concurrent sentencing, examining its definition, purposes, implications, and surrounding debates. Let’s explore the world of concurrency in criminal law.

Understanding the Concept of Concurrency in Criminal Law

2.1 Definition of Concurrency

Concurrency, in the context of criminal law, refers to the practice of serving multiple sentences simultaneously. When an individual receives multiple sentences for committing several crimes, the court may decide to have the sentences run concurrently, meaning the offender serves the sentences concurrently, or at the same time.

2.2 Types of Concurrent Sentences

There are primarily two types of concurrent sentences:

a) Full Concurrent Sentence

In a full concurrent sentence, an offender serves all sentences at the same time. For instance, if someone receives sentences of two years for crime A and three years for crime B, a full concurrent sentence would entail serving both the two-year and three-year sentences together, totaling five years.

b) Partial Concurrent Sentence

In a partial concurrent sentence, an offender serves some of the sentences simultaneously, while others are served consecutively. For instance, if an individual is sentenced to two years for crime A and three years for crime B, a partial concurrent sentence could mean serving the two-year sentence for crime A concurrently with the three-year sentence for crime B.

The Purpose of Concurrency in Criminal Law

Concurrency serves multiple purposes in the criminal justice system. Firstly, it aims to prevent excessive and disproportionate punishment for an offender who has committed multiple crimes. Instead of having them serve each sentence consecutively, which could lead to extraordinarily long imprisonment terms, concurrency allows for a more balanced approach to sentencing.

Secondly, concurrent sentencing promotes efficiency within the criminal justice system. By allowing sentences to be served concurrently, the burden on correctional facilities is reduced, freeing up resources that can be allocated to rehabilitation and other crucial programs.

How Concurrency Differs from Consecutively

4.1 Consecutivity Explained

Connectivity, on the other hand, is the opposite of concurrency. It involves serving sentences for different crimes consecutively, meaning that the offender completes one sentence before starting the next one. This can result in much longer prison terms, and the cumulative effect can be significantly harsher compared to concurrent sentencing.

4.2 Key Differences between Concurrency and Consecutively

The main differences between concurrency and connectivity are as follows:

  1. Duration: Concurrent sentences are served simultaneously, while consecutive sentences are served one after another, extending the total time of imprisonment.
  2. Severity: Concurrency tends to be less severe as the total sentence is usually lower than consecutive sentences, which can be much longer.
  3. Rehabilitation: Concurrent sentencing may provide earlier opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration into society, promoting potential behavior reform.

Factors Considered in Imposing Concurrent Sentences

The decision to impose concurrent sentences depends on several factors, including:

  1. Severity of crimes committed
  2. Circumstances surrounding the offenses
  3. Offender’s criminal history
  4. Impact on victims and society
  5. Offender’s remorse and willingness to rehabilitate

Advantages of Concurrent Sentencing

  • Efficiency: Concurrent sentencing reduces the time spent in correctional facilities, leading to cost savings for taxpayers.
  • Fairness: It ensures that offenders do not face excessively long sentences for multiple crimes, preventing overly harsh punishment.
  • Rehabilitation: Concurrent sentences may allow offenders to engage in rehabilitation programs earlier, potentially reducing the likelihood of reoffending.

Criticisms and Challenges of Concurrent Sentencing

  • Perceived Leniency: Critics argue that concurrent sentencing may appear lenient and fail to hold offenders fully accountable for each crime.
  • Inadequate Deterrence: Some believe that concurrent sentences do not deter criminals effectively, as they may not fear serving multiple sentences simultaneously.
  • Victim Concerns: Concurrent sentencing may lead to dissatisfaction among victims who expect offenders to serve consecutive sentences for each crime committed.

Real-World Examples of Concurrent Sentencing

  1. Case 1: In a high-profile bank robbery case, the court decided to impose concurrent sentences on the three robbers, reasoning that they would be able to reform and reintegrate into society faster if they served their sentences concurrently.
  2. Case 2: In a fraud case involving multiple counts, the judge opted for partial concurrent sentencing, with some counts running consecutively, considering the severity of the financial damage caused.

The Role of Judges in Determining Concurrency

Judges play a vital role in determining whether sentences should be served concurrently or consecutively. They carefully assess the nature of the crimes, the offender’s criminal history, and the impact on victims before making their decisions.

Potential Reforms in Concurrent Sentencing

While concurrent sentencing has its advantages, there are ongoing debates about its fairness and effectiveness. Some potential reforms that have been proposed include:

  1. Presumptive Concurrent Sentencing: Introducing a default approach of concurrent sentencing, which can be deviated from based on specific circumstances.
  2. Guidelines for Partial Concurrency: Providing clearer guidelines for judges to determine when partial concurrent sentencing is appropriate.

The Impact of Concurrency on the Criminal Justice System

Concurrency significantly influences the criminal justice system. By balancing punishment and efficiency, it helps maintain a functional and equitable system. However, finding the right balance is a continuous challenge for lawmakers and judges.

Balancing Justice and Rehabilitation in Concurrent Sentencing

The debate between punitive justice and rehabilitation is often heightened by concurrent sentencing. Striking a balance between punishing offenders for their crimes and promoting their potential for rehabilitation remains a delicate task for the criminal justice system.

The Public Perception of Concurrent Sentencing

Public perception of concurrent sentencing varies. While some see it as a pragmatic approach, others criticize it as being too lenient. Engaging in public discourse and understanding these perspectives can contribute to meaningful criminal justice reforms.


criminal justice system. Allowing multiple sentences to be served concurrently, it prevents excessively harsh punishments and ensures a more efficient use of resources in correctional facilities. Concurrent sentencing also offers the possibility of early rehabilitation, potentially reducing the chances of reoffending.

While concurrency has its advantages, it is not without criticisms and challenges. Some argue that it may be perceived as lenient and fail to hold offenders fully accountable for their actions. Additionally, there are concerns that concurrent sentencing may not deter criminals effectively, as they may not fear serving multiple sentences simultaneously.


1- Is concurrent sentencing the same as serving multiple sentences at the same time?

Yes, concurrent sentencing involves serving multiple sentences at the same time, as opposed to consecutive sentencing, where each sentence is served one after the other.

2- Does concurrent sentencing mean that offenders get away with their crimes?

No, concurrent sentencing does not mean offenders get away with their crimes. They still serve time for each offense, but the sentences run concurrently, preventing excessive punishment.

3- Do all jurisdictions practice concurrent sentencing?

Not all jurisdictions practice concurrent sentencing. The sentencing laws may vary, and some jurisdictions may have different rules regarding concurrent and consecutive sentences.

4- Can concurrent sentencing be applied to all types of crimes?

Concurrent sentencing can be applied to various types of crimes, but the decision ultimately rests with the judge based on the circumstances of each case.

5- Are there any statistics on the effectiveness of concurrent sentencing in reducing recidivism?

Research on the direct impact of concurrent sentencing on recidivism is limited. However, it is believed that providing earlier opportunities for rehabilitation through concurrent sentencing may reduce recidivism rates.

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