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Posted by Vitaly Sigal | Jul 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

One of the most important calculations a criminal defense lawyer can make is to figure out how much credit for time served his client has earned and/or will earn prior to being sentenced by the court for a crime.

Criminal defense, like any other law, involved knowing an intricate set of rules that affect the outcome of a criminal matter. Usually, the application and the adequate knowledge of these criminal laws is the difference between a client being convicted of a crime or achieving a more favorable outcome. In this blog I try to discuss these criminal laws as I have seen them applied over the course of a long career as criminal defense lawyer.

No rule, however has more practical applications in a criminal case that the rules regarding custody credits. Probably the most common questions, I get from clients facing criminal charges in the state of California is “How much time will I do?” In order to properly answer this question, a criminal defense lawyer will need to know how the laws of criminal sentencing credits work.

In this blog I will discuss the basic concepts of custody credits both in terms of good behavior credits as well as work credits. I will state ahead of time that this is an area of law that is very complex and it is highly advisable to seek the services of an experienced criminal lawyer who knows the facts of your case, prior to making any decisions of your case. FOR A FREE NO OBLIGATIONS CONSULTATION REGARDING YOUR CRIMINAL MATTER CALL US AT 818 325-0570 OR CONTACT US HERE

In every case where a person is convicted of a crime, at the time of his/her sentencing the criminal court must award that person credits for time served in custody. Those credits are then applied against the actual sentence that person receives and is subtracted from the time a person has to spend behind bars.


Only people in actual custody are given credit for time served when they are sentenced for the conviction of a crime.

A person is considered to be in custody when he or she is subject to restraints not shared by the public generally. The criminal law is very liberal when defining what qualifies under this definition.

Generally if a person is in one of the following places, he or she will earn credit for time served:

  • Jail or prison;
  • Youth Camp;
  • Work furlough facility;
  • Halfway house;
  • Rehabilitation facility;
  • State Hospital that involves confinement;
  • Diagnostic facility;
  • Juvenile detention facility;

A person is not entitled to credit for time served if he or she is on an alternative community sentencing program such as electronic monitoring, house arrest or a suspended sentence.


There have been many changes to California's criminal statutes in relation to sentencing credits. Just recently, as a result of the ongoing State of California financial crisis, the governor increased the amount of credits earned to two days earned for two days served. This made sentences much shorter and also made calculating credit for time served easier.

Unfortunately for people who are facing jail sentences for crimes, this law was later changed again and now people confined to county jail are earning less credit for time served than before.

There are two basic types of calculations that are made for calculating credit for time served, those are the calculations for state prison sentences and the calculations for county jail sentences. Those differ greatly and are discussed below:

Time served for county jail sentences:

Update: Please see our latest blog regarding this topic for changes to the law regarding county jail custody credits for all crimes occurring on or after October 1, 2011

A person earns 1 day for every 2 days that they serve in the county jail. This means a person who has served two days in the county jail will receive credit for 3 days.

The exception to this rule is for people who are sentenced to county jail for a violent felony, and then they will receive a maximum of 15% credit against their jail time. Or put in other words, persons convicted of violent felony crimes will serve 85% of their time for a criminal conviction.

Time served for state prison sentences:

When a person who is convicted of a crime is sentenced to state prison that person is given more credits, while in state prison, than a person who is sentenced to county jail. In order to be sentenced to state prison, the minimum sentence that a person can be given for any one crime is sixteen months of confinement.

When a person is sentenced to state prison for a crime, they will receive one day credit for every one day served. In other words a person who is sentenced to state prison will do 50% of their sentence when you subtract credit for good behavior and work.

There are however exceptions to this rule. If the crime for which the person is convicted is considered a serious felony crime as defined by the California Penal Code, if the person has a prior conviction for either a serious or a violent felony as defined by the California penal code, or that person is required to register as a sex offender, then that person will earn credits in the same way as a person who is sentenced to county jail earns them: 1 day for every 2 day's served.

Another exception bars people who have been convicted of violent felony crimes, to earn more than 15% credit. So a person who is convicted of a violent felony crime as defined by the California penal code, will have to serve out 85% of their time.


If you or someone you love is in custody and facing a possible jail or prison sentence, it is in your best interest to hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer to defend you or your loved ones right and freedom. An experienced criminal lawyer will know how to navigate the rough waters of the California criminal system and get you or your loved one the results they need to save their freedom and quite often their life. FOR A FREE NO OBLIGATIONS CONSULTATION REGARDING YOUR CRIMINAL MATTER CALL US  AT 818 325-0570 OR CONTACT US TODAY

About the Author

Vitaly Sigal

Vitaly Sigal Sigal Law Group Owner 355 S. Grand Ave, Suite 2450 Los Angeles, CA 90071 (213) 620-0212 Vitaly Sigal has extensive trial experience and is not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. From straightforward to complex litigation, Mr. Sigal handles every case with the same i...


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