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Tennessee Criminal Law: Consecutive or Concurrent Sentences?

November 01, 2010

Tennessee Criminal Law: Consecutive or Concurrent Sentences?

It is within the sound discretion of the trial court whether or not an offender should
be sentenced consecutively or concurrently. State v. James, 688 S.W.2d 463, 465 (Tenn.
Crim. App. 1984). A court may order multiple sentences to run consecutively if it finds, by
a preponderance of the evidence, that at least one of the following seven factors exists:
(1) The defendant is a professional criminal who has knowingly devoted such
defendant’s life to criminal acts as a major source of livelihood;
(2) The defendant is an offender whose record of criminal activity is extensive;
(3) The defendant is a dangerous mentally abnormal person so declared by a
competent psychiatrist who concludes as a result of an investigation prior to
sentencing that the defendant’s criminal conduct has been characterized by a
pattern of repetitive or compulsive behavior with heedless indifference to
(4) The defendant is a dangerous offender whose behavior indicates little or
no regard for human life, and no hesitation about committing a crime in which
the risk to human life is high;
(5) The defendant is convicted of two (2) or more statutory offenses involving
sexual abuse of a minor with consideration of the aggravating circumstances
arising from the relationship between the defendant and victim or victims, the
time span of the defendant’s undetected sexual activity, the nature and scope
of the sexual acts and the extent of the residual, physical and mental damage
to the victim or victims;
(6) The defendant is sentenced for an offense committed while on probation;
(7) The defendant is sentenced for criminal contempt.
T.C.A. § 40-35-115(b)(1)-(7). In addition to these criteria, consecutive sentencing is subject
to the general sentencing principle that the length of a sentence should be “justly deserved
in relation to the seriousness of the offense” and “no greater than that deserved for the
offense committed.” T.C.A. § 40-35-102(1), 103(2); see also State v. Imfeld, 70 S.W.3d 698,
708 (Tenn. 2002). Rule 32(c) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure instructs a trial
court to explicitly recite on the judgment its reasons for imposing a consecutive sentence.