Five Ways to Reduce Jail Time in Michigan

Ways to lessen the burden of a criminal offense and sweeten a plea deal

The most common question asked by a defendant before a trial is, “How much time am I looking at?” The potential length of a sentence can often dictate the next course of action, including a plea deal. Being aware of the processes used to determine jail time can help you make a more informed decision on whether the deal is worth pursuing.

Sentencing Guidelines

The sentencing guidelines generally give a person an idea of what they face. Each crime has a maximum sentence but Michigan has created an equation that gives the judge a range of time based on the past crimes committed and the details of the current offense. So, with a little math, one can approximate the sentence before taking a deal. It should be noted that the guidelines are only advisory and judges can exceed them if they see fit. 

Deferment Programs

If a defendant’s criminal history is not extensive, there are deferment programs or delayed sentencing that can lessen the impact of jail time. These are mostly for first-time drug, drunk driving, or domestic violence offenders or for younger first-time offenders. They often involve therapy, drug testing, and/or educational programs. 

Consecutive vs. Concurrent Terms

If the defendant has been charged with more than one crime, there is an opportunity during the sentencing phase for the judge to make the time consecutive or concurrent. Consecutive means that one must serve the full sentence of one crime before starting on the second. Concurrent means that all the sentences are served at the same time, essentially making the total the length of the longest sentence. The availability of concurrent sentences is statutory, or dependent on the crime.

Credit for Time Served

Often in the course of the criminal procedure, a defendant will be detained in jail for a period of time. It may be just one day when they were arrested, or possibly several months as they awaited trial dates and did not post bond. Either way, the judge can subtract the time already spent in jail from the sentence and give the offender credit for time served.

Good Time

Good time is a policy that gives credit of one day per every five days served in jail as long as one stays out of trouble. In a Michigan prison, there is technically no “good time.” A 1998 law titled “Truth in Sentencing” requires those sent to prison to serve the minimum sentence imposed. This means a prisoner cannot be up for parole until they have served their minimum sentence. If there is some disciplinary action, the good time that has been built up doesn’t go away, but it may stop accruing while the consequences are carried out, and it’s up to the warden to reinstate the credits earned or not.

How all these things are determined?

The above determinations are made during conferences with the prosecutor, back in the judge’s chambers and in the sentencing hearings. These considerations often happen in fast succession and there isn’t a lot of time to determine if any deal is the best thing to accept. To be certain one has all the information they need to make these decisions, they should hire a reputable criminal defense attorney to walk them through all the considerations.

For more information on this area of law, see our overview of criminal defense.

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