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Types of Criminal Sentences

Whether a defendant accepts a plea deal is often based on the sentencing offers they get. This article overviews the types of sentences in a criminal case.

Criminal procedure goes hand in hand with sentencing. Sentencing guidelines will differ depending on a variety of factors. These factors include your jurisdiction, criminal history (or criminal record), and the criminal offenses you committed.

Many misdemeanors will only result in a fine upon conviction rather than jail time. You may also have to complete community service, stay on house arrest, etc.

The most severe sentence is the death penalty, but not all states have it.

Here is a brief overview of the types of criminal sentences that follow a criminal conviction:

  • A concurrent sentence is served simultaneously with another prison sentence imposed earlier or at the same proceeding.
  • A consecutive sentence occurs when the sentences for multiple crimes are added so that each sentence begins immediately upon completing the previous one.
  • A deferred sentence happens when the judge postpones its beginning.
  • A determinate sentence is the same as a fixed sentence. It's for a fixed period.
  • A final sentence puts an end to a criminal case.
  • An indeterminate sentence is the opposite of a specified period for imprisonment. It instead declares that the period will be "not more than" or "not less than" a particular prescribed duration of time. State statutes usually grant the authority to give indeterminate sentences.
  • A life sentence represents the disposition of a serious criminal case. Here, the convicted person spends the rest of their life in prison.
  • A mandatory sentence means a punishment for which a judge has no room for discretion. State or federal statutes create it. Generally, the judge may not suspend the sentence or impose probation. This leaves the judge with no alternative but the "mandated" sentence.
  • A maximum sentence represents the outer limit of punishment, beyond which a convicted person may not remain in custody.
  • A minimum sentence means the mandatory minimum penalty or amount of time a convicted person must spend in prison. After this time, the defendant may become eligible for parole or release.
  • A presumptive sentence exists in many states by statute. It specifies an appropriate sentence for each offense as a baseline for a judge when handing out a punishment. The judge will consider relevant factors, such as aggravating or mitigating factors. 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 involves the postponing of a sentence after a conviction.

Learn More About the Types of Criminal Sentences: Speak to a Criminal Law Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges, remember that you are not alone. Knowing the types of criminal sentences is essential.

Speak with a local criminal defense attorney today. They will help you understand how sentencing may work in your specific case.

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