Illinois Drug Charges? Learn about Concurrent vs. Consecutive Sentences
If you’re facing drug charges in Illinois, you may have a lot of questions. One of those might be the penalties you will face if you are found guilty—or choose to plead guilty.
In the state of Illinois, anyone pleading guilty or convicted of a crime in court is subject to the sentence for that particular crime.
For drug trafficking crimes, there’s much to understand about the structure of sentencing and how that can impact the amount of time you spend in prison.
Here’s what you need to know about concurrent and consecutive sentencing.
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Illinois
While most people associate mandatory minimum criminal sentencing with federal courts, it exists in Illinois courts, too.
A mandatory minimum sentence is the minimum amount of time in prison required when a judge issues the sentencing for a crime. The criminal history of the defendant plays no role in a mandatory minimum sentence, and neither do any sort of mitigating circumstances surrounding the case.
To put it simply: judges, even if they disagree, are required to impose these mandatory minimums.
For drug trafficking convictions, under the Illinois Controlled Substance Trafficking Act, the law requires a judge to hand down a prison sentence no less than twice the minimum but also no more than twice the maximum.
Also consider that, often, multiple crimes are sentenced at once, each with their own mandatory minimum or maximum sentence.
Once sentenced, you can expect to spend a significant amount of time in prison, which makes it even more important to understand the differences between consecutive and concurrent sentencing.
Consecutive and Concurrent Sentencing
So, what is the difference between consecutive and concurrent sentencing?
For a consecutive sentence, the sentences are served without overlap, which means the convicted person must serve one complete sentence before the next can begin.
So, if you’re convicted of drug trafficking and possession, and sentenced for each consecutively, then you must finish the sentence for the first charge before you start the sentence for the second conviction.
For concurrent sentencing, the defendant is allowed to serve parallel sentences for their convictions.
For anyone convicted of several crimes, the differences between concurrent and consecutive sentencing can be immense.
Judges carefully weigh the severity of the sentence handed down, and they often consider similar factors in how they order sentences to be served.
Some judges are allowed to exercise discretion between consecutive and concurrent sentences, but others are required to order consecutive serving. How much leeway they have in deciding depends on how applicable laws are written.
Do Drug Crimes Put You in Double Jeopardy?
Ensconced in the U.S. Constitution is the protection of citizens from being punished multiple times for the same crime. This leads a lot of people to wonder if convictions for two criminal offenses from the same act, resulting in more than one prison sentence, constitutes double jeopardy.
For Illinois state crimes, a judge will impose only one sentence for separate crimes that originate with a single act. Often, the most severe crime is the one sentenced.
However, if drug crimes are prosecuted in federal court, sentences can be handed down for more than one crime at once.
If you’re facing a felony conviction, understanding your rights is vital. You could potentially face a lengthy prison sentence, so make sure you have the best defense possible.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.