The Problem of Enhancements for Prior or Multiple Current Convictions

Richard S. Frase

in Just Sentencing

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199757862
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979547 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Penal Theory and Philosophy

The Problem of Enhancements for Prior or Multiple Current Convictions

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This chapter examines one of the most difficult and important problems of sentencing theory and practice—sentencing enhancements based on prior or multiple current convictions. It first refutes retributive justifications for prior-record (“criminal history”) enhancements, and concludes that such enhancements are only justified if they are based on elevated recidivism risk and respect the normal upper limits of current-offense desert. Moreover, such enhancements should be replaced by validated risk assessment instruments that include normatively acceptable factors in addition to prior convictions. As for multiple current convictions, the chapter concedes that such offenses often merit consecutive sentences, on both desert and risk grounds, but argues for reasons of parsimony in favor of two presumptions: concurrent sentencing and, in case of departure, a limit of twice the recommended sentence for the most serious offense. The chapter also promotes several forms of “concurrent plus” sentencing, including treatment of multiple current offenses as “prior” convictions.

Keywords: concurrent sentences; consecutive sentences; criminal history enhancements; desert; multiple current offenses; prior-record enhancements; recidivism; risk assessment

Chapter.  14562 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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