‘Buy one, get one free’ shouldn’t apply to crime
Regarding prison sentences, the first word refers to separate sentences being served at the same time — three 12-month sentences served concurrently add up to one year of prison time (minus time off for good behavior). Three 12-month sentences served consecutively, however, add up to three years in prison (minus time off for good behavior).
Judge Robert Macaulay sentenced Stephen James Smith, 21, to 33 months on one felony count of third-degree possession of heroin for his role in an incident that occurred on March 4. He also sentenced Smith to 39 months on one felony count of second-degree possession of 6 grams of heroin for an incident on March 19. In addition, Smith was also sentenced to 39 months on one felony count of third-degree possession of heroin for his role in a third incident that took place on July 19, to be served at the same time as the other two sentences.
It’s frustrating for the law-abiding. Smith committed the first crime, got out on a miniscule bail ($150 cash), then committed the second crime just over two weeks later. Again he posted bail ($4,000 this time) and failed to show up for later court appearances, at which point the court issued warrants for his arrest. When he was picked up the third time months later, it happened only after a high speed chase through rural residential Cloquet. Luckily no one was hit or injured in that chase.
Smith will serve a maximum of 39 months, or just over three years, for his crime spree this year, rather than the nine-plus years he could have served if the sentences were to run consecutively.
Smith’s case is not unique. It happens all the time. Offenders get multiple sentences for multiple crimes … to be served concurrently.
Except for Vanessa Brigan, who basically had no criminal record but did have a problem with drugs that ultimately led to the deaths of two hard-working, wonderful Carlton County residents and employees, when she drove (badly) while high on methadone. Brigan is serving her sentences consecutively.
Smith, who has racked up a considerable record in his 21 years of life and no doubt intended to commit the crimes he pleaded guilty to, is serving his sentences concurrently.
We aren’t arguing that Brigan’s sentence was wrong, rather that it feels like the court needs to look harder at criminal history and criminal intent when determining whether sentences will be served concurrently or consecutively.
Right now the system seems to communicate to hard-core offenders that they might as well commit more crimes while they’re out on bail, because odds are good they won’t serve any additional time, even if they do get caught.
“Buy one, get one free” is not OK for crime.