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How long do you go to jail for a misdemeanor? What is Good time credit?

One question I get asked frequently is some version of "How long do you go to jail for a misdemeanor?" When I was in high school and college I assumed that the old saying of "you do the crime, you do the time" was what really happened. However many people are surprised to learn that it is very uncommon for a jail sentence to be imposed on a first offender for any misdemeanor offense in Texas.


Most misdemeanor cases for first time offenders are offered some sort of probation which is technically referred to as "Community Supervision."


When they are not offered probation they may be offered jail time or a fine. A Class B misdemeanor like Theft of $100-$750 could be offered from 0-180 days in jail and $0-$2,000 or both. A Class A misdemeanor like Assault Family Member could be offered from 0-365 days in jail and 0-$4000 fine or both.


So lets say that the state offers you 60 days in jail on an Assault Family Member charge and the Judge pronounces sentence after you plead guilty. How long will you be going to jail? The answer you are likely to get is, "Only the sheriff can tell you." The reason is because almost every sheriff offers "Good time" credit.


Good time credit means that you will not serve the full sentence given to you by the prosecutor and the Judge. Typically inmates are given either 2 days or 3 days credit for every day of their sentence. This means that if you are sentenced to jail you may serve half or less of your jail time. If you get a job while in the jail doing laundry or helping clean you may be given "trustee" status and given even more time off of your sentence. The main theory behind offering this type of credit is to encourage good behavior while being incarcerated. If there were no good time credit in jail then inmates would lack an incentive short of additional criminal charges being filed against them. Every county's procedures are different in this regard and it is up to the Sheriff to make the decision. Even a Judge who is elected by the same members of the public as the Sheriff cannot require the Sheriff to incarcerate a defendant for the full time listed on his judgement.

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