The Difference Between An Indeterminate Sentence And A Determinate Sentence In Los Angeles County
This issue comes up a lot in criminal defense because when people are charged with very serious crimes, sometimes they’re facing a sentence where they may never get out. For example, if someone gets fifteen to life or twenty-five to life that would be considered an indeterminate sentence, because the person would not know for sure when they would get out. If they got fifteen to life, they would serve fifteen years and then they would become eligible to be paroled and then they would come before the Parole Board every year and the Parole Board has certain factors — including on looking at how the person does in prison, looking at what their crime is, looking at what type of an impact their crime had to a victim or victims in the case, and a host of other factors that the Parole Board deems appropriate. The bottom line is, there is a chance the person will never get out again.
That’s where you can’t determine exactly what the sentence is going to be. Therefore, it would be an indeterminate sentence. A determinate sentence in Los Angeles as it relates to criminal defense is one that you know when the person is going to get out. Somebody gets a sentence and the first thing you want to figure out is what percentage of the time that person is going to serve. That is determined by what the charge is. If it’s a violent felony pursuant to the three strikes law, the individual who is convicted of this particular crime is going to serve 85% of whatever time they get. If it’s a serious felony, pursuant to the three strikes law, the individual is going to serve 80% of whatever time it is they were sentenced to. Finally, if it’s any other crime, then typically the person will serve half of the time once they calculate in the good time/work time they earn while they’re in custody.
So, for indeterminate, the term of the sentence can be very important in criminal defense, because obviously, you want to get a determinate sentence so you know exactly when you get out versus an indeterminate sentence where you’re guessing and hoping when you might get out. As it stands today, the Governor of California is very liberal, and a lot of people – even with indeterminate sentences – have been able to get out of prison recently, and more and more laws and propositions are passing which will allow people to get out early – like Prop 57 and some of the related legislative acts that have been passed in Los Angeles and throughout the state of California.
Like never before, in the course of my twenty-five years of practice, have I seen people getting shorter jail time sentences, shorter prison sentences, and actually being released on sentences where they potentially could face the rest of their life in prison. So, if you’re grappling with an indeterminate sentence situation, get the best attorney you can. Let them advise you, strategize for you and make sure that you get the best representation possible so you can avoid a lengthy prison sentence.
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