State and Federal Jail Time.
How much jail time will you get if you have both a state and federal charge pending? This problem comes up when a person is on probation or out on bond for a state case and then gets arrested for a federal crime. This creates a tricky issue.
The problem in a nutshell is that two judges must decide on their own how much jail time to give one defendant. To explain, the state judge decides the state jail time. In contrast, the federal judge decides the federal jail time. But how much total jail time will the person end up doing? In other words, will the jail time be concurrent or consecutive?
To answer this question, we first need to define two key terms–consecutive and concurrent jail terms. From there, we can see how federal judges solve this problem. So let’s get started.
What is a concurrent sentence?
A concurrent sentence is a jail term for a conviction that runs together with the jail term for a different conviction. For example, if a judge sentences a person to six months in jail for both a drug crime and a stolen car crime, then those are concurrent sentences. In effect, the judge merges the jail time on the drug case with the jail time on the stolen car case. As a result, the person only does six months for both cases.
What is a consecutive sentence?
A consecutive sentence is a jail term for a crime that runs on top of a jail term for a different crime. The person must first complete one jail term, and then start doing time for the second jail term. Stated differently, the two jail terms are “stacked.”
To illustrate, if a judge stacks the 6 month jail terms for the drug and stolen-car crimes, then this is a consecutive sentence. This means the person will serve a total of 12 months in jail. He will first serve six months for the drug case. After he completes that jail term, then he will serve six months for the stolen car case.
Who decides if the state and federal jail terms are concurrent or consecutive?
The federal judge decides. Critically, federal judges have a lot of power. And they can merge or stack the jail time when a person has both state and federal charges pending. However, at sentencing, your lawyer can ask the judge for a concurrent sentence instead of a consecutive sentence.
What are my options if a federal judge stacks my state and federal jail time?
You can try to work something out with the state prosecutor. If you are on probation in state court, then ask if the state will end your probation instead of revoking it and sending you to jail. If the state agrees, then your state case will be over and there will be no jail term to “stack.”
Likewise, if you have a state case that you have not plead guilty to, then ask the prosecutor if they will drop the charge. If the prosecutor agrees, then you will only do jail time for the federal case.
Also, if the prosecutor will not drop the charge, then ask if they will lower the charge. This can lead to a lower total jail term for both cases.