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Texas Court of Criminal Appeals: 
Concurrent Sentences Mean Concurrent Fines

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals: ?Concurrent Sentences Mean Concurrent Fines

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) ruled that fines imposed as part of a sentence for multiple counts of an offense committed during the course of a single criminal episode must be imposed concurrently.

James Crook, a Texas criminal defendant, was convicted of thirteen counts of barratry arising out of the same criminal episode. The jury assessed punishment at 10 years incarceration and a $10,000 fine per count, with a recommendation for community service probation for the incarceration part of the sentence. The trial court ordered the fines to run concurrently, for a total of $10,000.

The state appealed the sentence on the grounds that under long-standing case law, all fines are consecutive; that is, Crook should pay fines totaling $130,000. The Court of Appeals, 8th District, affirmed the trial court’s decision. See: State v. Crook, 2005 Tex. App. LEXIS 5077 (Tex. App., June 30, 2005).

The state petitioned for discretionary review by the CCA. The CCA granted review and held that Section 3.03(a), Texas Penal Code, which sets forth the rules for punishment when multiple offenses arise in a single criminal episode, specifically requires that “sentences shall run concurrently.”

The appellate court also found “that a fine is part of a sentence.” Further, in cases governed by Section 3.03(a), the Legislature removed the traditional discretion of the trial judge as to whether sentences should run concurrently or consecutively. Because the Legislature did not give any indication that it intended to exclude fines from the term “sentence,” it was assumed that fines were intended to run concurrently. This means that a defendant is only required to pay the highest fine in concurrent sentences. In Crook’s case, one payment of $10,000 would satisfy the fine portion of his sentence.

Because judges have discretion in cases not prosecuted under Section 3.03(a), and because Section 3.03(a) was intended to balance a benefit to the state in prosecuting fewer trials with a benefit to the defendant in receiving concurrent sentences, this rationale may not hold true for concurrent sentences not arising from a single criminal episode.

The CCA also rejected the state’s argument that because fines do not “run,” they are not intended to be included in the language of Section 3.03(a). The judgment of the Court of Appeals was affirmed. See: State v. Crook, 248 S.W.3d 172 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008), rehearing denied.

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Related legal case

State v. Crook