Typically, subject to exception, defendants are entitled to custody or conduct credit for both actual time spent in custody before sentencing and credit for worktime and good behavior based on the actual custody time. This may cause the release of the convicted person after serving only 50% of his or her sentence. However, California’s three-strikes law and other California statutes may limit this opportunity as certain prior criminal convictions may serve as recidivism enhancements. Thus, defendants with strikes and prior offenses on their criminal records may be required to serve more of their sentences than those who do not have any strikes or priors.
Custody and conduct credits are often collectively referred to as “conduct credit,” based on the actual custody time. While calculating presentence actual custody credit is a reasonably straightforward process, calculating presentence conduct credit may be more challenging and complex. The California Supreme Court recognized this, stating “[a]s with many determinations of credit, a seemingly simple question can reveal hidden complexities.” A multitude of changes to the statutes applicable to the award of custody or conduct credits in the last ten years in California has further complicated the process.
The award of presentence actual custody credit is governed by California Penal Code section 2900.5. The award of presentence conduct credit is governed by current enactments of California Penal Code § 4019, or other California statutes, including one of several former enactments of Penal Code section 4019. The applicable statute to a defendant’s sentence and time incarcerated depends on many factors, including the nature of the present offense, the nature of any prior offenses, the date of these prior offenses, and the date of sentencing.
Three variables determine the date on which a person convicted of a crime will be released from the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR):
- The length of the prison term imposed by the sentencing court.
- Any credits earned for actual time served custody and good conduct in custody prior to arriving in the CDCR.
- The good conduct and other programming credits earned while in CDCR custody.
Some recidivism statutes provide alternative sentencing schemes that increase the length of the term for a criminal charge. Thus, the length of a felony sentence may be increased if the person has prior juvenile or adult convictions.
For example, the principal and subordinate terms of a sentence will be doubled under the two-strikes law if the defendant has previously committed a serious or violent felony. There are also alternative sentencing schemes that provide for indeterminate life terms, like the three-strikes law and the one-strike law.
If a defendant is convicted of a violent felony as defined by California law, then California Penal Code § 2933.1 limits the amount of conduct credit the defendant may earn to 15 percent of the actual period of confinement. Second or third strikers may only earn up to 20% of credit and must complete 80% of their sentence before release. California’s three-strikes law also requires that strike sentences be served consecutively.
Most recidivism enhancements do not attach to any specific charge and may only be added one time to the total sentence. Other enhancements apply to specific types of offenses. Also, punishment for some types of recidivism enhancements may be stricken in the interests of justice.
For over forty years, the Dolan Law Offices have provided post-conviction services to help the residents of the Coachella Valley clear their criminal record to restore their future as productive, law-abiding members of our community. There are not many attorneys more experienced in helping California residents clear their criminal records than John Patrick Dolan. Call the Dolan Law Offices today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.