As soon as law enforcement has an arrest warrant, they can arrest the suspect named in the warrant for the crime and send them to jail. After arrest, the defendant will have a bail hearing, where a judge will determine whether to release the defendant on bail or on their own recognizance (which means they may be released without paying a bond or bail).
However, in some cases the defendant may spend time between their arrest and trial (or even until the trial is complete) in jail, without being released. In these cases, if the defendant is convicted of the crime, they may receive what is called “jail credit” towards their sentence.
What is Jail Credit?
Jail credit, also known as “credit for time served” refers to time spent in jail while awaiting trial. In some instances, this time can be used to lower the amount of time someone must serve in prison or jail once they have received a jail or prison sentence. However, the time that they are serving in jail cannot be considered for jail credit if it is part of a sentence for a different crime.
For example, say a person is arrested for a misdemeanor and spends two days in jail before they are released. At trial, they are sentenced to ten days in jail and a fine. Since they have already spent two days in jail while they were awaiting trial, those two days can count towards the ten days they are required to serve, even though they had not been sentenced at that time.
However, say a person has been arrested and convicted for a crime and is serving out prison time as part of their sentence for that crime. If they are then convicted for a second crime while serving the sentence for the first crime, that time cannot be counted as jail credit for the second crime’s sentence.
What About House Arrest?
Depending on where you live, jail credit can only apply to time spent in an actual jail or prison, and not for other forms of confinement. For example, time spent under electronic house arrest (where you have an ankle monitor to make sure you stay where you are required to be) will not count towards jail credit.
Likewise, if you spend time in a privately-run residential drug or alcohol treatment program prior to your trial (and you are not charged with driving while intoxicated), the time you spend in treatment cannot count towards jail credit.
However, in some states you may be able to get jail credit for time in treatment facilities. If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), you may receive jail credit for time spent as an inpatient at a state-operated or state-licensed treatment facility for treatment of alcohol or substance abuse.
In this case, the treatment must occur after the commission of the offense for which you’re sentenced. (In other words, if you go to treatment first and then commit the DWI, that time in treatment will not count towards jail credit.) The important distinction here is that the treatment facility is state-operated, and the charge involves DWI.
When is a Defendant Given Jail Credit?
When a defendant is convicted and sentenced for a crime, a jail credit can be applied to their criminal sentence. The court can deduct the time spent in jail waiting for the trial to start or while the trial is going on.
What If I Have Concurrent Sentences?
Applying jail credit to concurrent sentences may vary depending on what jurisdiction you’re in. Generally, concurrent sentences run at the same time, while consecutive sentences run back-to-back.
If you are sentenced to concurrent sentences for two different charges, generally the jail credit can be applied to both sentences. For example, if you spend ten days in jail before being convicted on two charges stemming from the same incident, and then your sentences are to run concurrently, the court must apply ten days of jail credit to each sentence.
What If I Was Not Convicted?
If you were not convicted, you will not receive jail credit. Jail credit is intended to be applied towards a defendant’s sentence, so it is only available to those defendants who are convicted of a crime and spent time in jail before and/or during their trial.
Can I Receive Jail Credit If I Was Sentenced To Probation?
Depending on where you live and the rules of your jurisdiction, it is possible that you can receive jail credit for a sentence even if you are sentenced to probation.
For example, if you spend three days in jail before being sentenced to probation, your probation time will be shortened by three days. If, however, your probation is later revoked, and you are required to report for prison time, that jail credit will then be applied towards the prison sentence.
Should I Talk to a Lawyer About Jail Credit?
If you have been accused or convicted of a crime, and are facing time in jail or prison, you may want to find out if time that you’ve already spent in jail (or are currently spending, depending on your circumstances) can be credited towards your sentence.
A qualified criminal lawyer with experiencing handling matters regarding sentencing might be your best bet. An experienced lawyer can not only talk about the circumstances that are surrounding your case, but can also give you advice on how to protect your rights, help you know what possible sentences you could be facing, and figure out if you qualify for receiving jail credit.