Types of Sentences


Listed below are the types of sentences imposed:

  • A concurrent sentence is served at the same time as another sentence imposed earlier or at the same proceeding.
  • A consecutive (or cumulative) sentence occurs when a defendant has been convicted of several counts, each one constituting a distinct offense or crime, or when a defendant has been convicted of several crimes at the same time. The sentences for each crime are then “tacked” on to each other, so that each sentence begins immediately upon the expiration of the previous one.
  • A deferred sentence occurs when its execution is postponed until some later time.
  • A determinate sentence is the same as a fixed sentence: It is for a fixed period of time.
  • A final sentence puts an end to a criminal case. It is distinguished from an interlocutory or interim sentence.
  • An indeterminate sentence, rather than stating a fixed period of time for imprisonment, instead declares that the period shall be “not more than” or “not less than” a certain prescribed duration of time. The authority to render indeterminate sentences is usually granted by statute in several states.
  • A life sentence represents the disposition of a serious criminal case, in which the convicted person spends the remainder of his or her life in prison.
  • A mandatory sentence is created by state statute and represents the rendering of a punishment for which a judge has/had no room for discretion. Generally it means that the sentence may not be suspended and that no probation may be imposed, leaving the judge with no alternative but the “mandated” sentence.
  • A maximum sentence represents the outer limit of a punishment, beyond which a convicted person may not be held in custody.
  • A minimum sentence represents the minimum punishment or the minimum time a convicted person must spend in prison before becoming eligible for parole or release.
  • A presumptive sentence exists in many states by statute. It specifies an appropriate or “normal” sentence for each offense to be used as a baseline for a judge when meting out a punishment. The statutory presumptive sentence is considered along with other relevant factors (aggravating or mitigating circumstances) in determining the actual sentence. Most states have statutory “presumptive guidelines” for major or common offenses.
  • A straight or flat sentence is a fixed sentence without a maximum or minimum.
  • A suspended sentence actually has two different meanings. It may refer to a withholding or postponing of pronouncing a sentence following a conviction or it may refer to the postponing of the execution of a sentence after it has been pronounced.