Alabama Criminal Appeals Decision Says No Coterminous Time In Alabama Criminal Sentencing
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held that Alabama criminal sentencing under the Alabama Code does not include a grant of authority to a trial court to run sentences coterminously. In Carroll V. Alabama Department of Corrections, released October 3, 2014, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held:
A court derives its authority to sentence a defendant by, or within, certain specifications by statute or the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. In Alabama, statutory law allows courts to enter sentences that are consecutive or concurrent. There is no statute or rule in Alabama that allows a court to sentence a defendant “coterminously.” Therefore, because the court did not have the statutory authority to sentence Carroll “coterminously,” that sentencing order was illegal and is void.
The decision on Alabama criminal sentencing could mean that inmates who are presently serving time under a court order with “coterminous” sentences could end up being classified as having consecutive sentences by the Department of Corrections. This would be the result of the application of Alabama Code § 14-3-38 which states that where a “convict is sentenced to imprisonment in the penitentiary on two or more convictions, unless it is specifically ordered in the judgment entry that such sentences be served concurrently, such sentences shall be cumulative and shall be served consecutively.”
Relief is available to inmates facing this situation. Under Alabama Rule of Criminal Procedure, Rule 26.12 a sentencing court has authority to order that previously imposed consecutive sentences run concurrently. This order may be entered at any time by the sentencing court. The only difficulty may be getting the matter before the court to have the sentence corrected. Doing so would require a petition to be filed with the court.