I am asked from time to time whether imprisonment terms for special probation (split sentences) may be run consecutively. I think they probably may.
For example, suppose a prior conviction level III defendant is convicted of two Class 1 misdemeanor offenses. If the court imposes a 120-day suspended sentence for each conviction, the maximum permissible split sentence for each is 30 days—one-fourth the imposed sentence. G.S. 15A-1351(a). May the court run those 30-day splits consecutively, so the defendant serves 60 days in jail?
I am inclined to say yes. G.S. 15A-1351(a) allows split sentences to be served noncontinuously. To impose “consecutive” splits, I think the judge is merely ordering that the second term of imprisonment begins after the first one ends. The only limitation on the judge’s authority to delay the start of the second term of imprisonment is that no split sentence confinement is allowed beyond two years of conviction, G.S. 15A-1351(a), but that limitation is likely to come into play only for felonies with lengthy suspended sentences that allow for very long splits.
A possible argument against consecutive splits is that the requirement in G.S. 15A-1346(a) that probation periods run concurrently with one another also extends to any confinement ordered as a condition of each probation period. It’s not clear to me, though, that the concurrency of overlapping probation periods has anything to do with the particular conditions of supervision ordered in each case. Concurrent supervision periods are often subject to different conditions at different times (for example, one might have curfew while another includes a requirement for treatment), and the propriety of each condition is determined on a judgment by judgment basis. Nothing in G.S. 15A-1351(a) requires the length or logistics of a split sentence to be evaluated based on a defendant’s cumulative suspended sentence. For that reason, I think the authority to impose “consecutive splits” is the same regardless of whether a defendant’s suspended sentences are set to run concurrently or consecutively in the event of revocation, or even when the defendant’s only convictions are Class 3 misdemeanors, for which consecutive active sentences would not be permitted at all. G.S. 15A-1340.22(a).
A related question is whether a split sentence may be run consecutively to a period of confinement in response to violation (CRV) or a “quick dip” in the jail. Though CRVs must run concurrently with other CRVs, G.S. 15A-1344(d2), and dips must run concurrently with other dips, G.S. 15A-1343(a1)(3), there is no statutory requirement that either of those forms of confinement run concurrently with a split sentence.