Concurrent sentencing allows sentences for more than one crime to be served at one time. It is a less severe penalty than consecutive sentencing. When a criminal defendant is convicted of two or more crimes, a judge sentences him/her to a certain period of time for each crime. If a judge orders the sentences to be served consecutively, the sentences are combined so that whichever has the longer period is the period served. Reasons for ordering consecutive sentences include compassion, leniency, plea bargaining or the fact that the several crimes are interrelated.
In 18 U.S.C. §§ 3553(a) and (b) and 3584, Congress granted district courts broad discretion to impose consecutive or concurrent sentences, subject to the provisions of the Sentencing Guidelines. The Guidelines provide that if the statutory maximum sentence is less than the minimum of the applicable guideline range, the statutory maximum shall be the guideline sentence. For a multi-count conviction, unless limited by the applicable statutory maximum, the sentence for each count shall be the total punishment. If the highest applicable statutory maximum "is adequate to achieve the total punishment, the sentences on all counts shall run concurrently, unless a statute, such as 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(4), prescribes a consecutive sentence. However, if the highest statutory maximum is less than the total punishment then the sentence imposed on one or more of the other counts shall run consecutively, but only to the extent necessary to produce a combined sentence equal to the total punishment."