This is a big question that I see asked all the time and a lot of times my clients ask me this question. Obviously, nobody wants to go to jail. It's an unpleasant place. The conditions in the county jail are not good. It's overcrowded and there's a lot of violent individuals in there so it becomes a dangerous location as well.
When I'm asked about the percentage of time that you actually serve on a criminal sentence in the Los Angeles County jail, it's not the easiest question to answer with exactness, because the sheriffs have developed their own formula based on how crowded the jail system is. We're typically able to tell most people, as long as you didn't plead to a strike, that they're going to serve no more than 50% of their time. So, if you got a year in the county jail, you would expect to serve no more than six months. But, I've had many clients get out much earlier than that six-month mark. I've had clients get out in a couple of months. I've had clients get out in even less time than that on a year's sentence. So, that makes it a little more difficult to gauge. But, the good news is for people who are going to have to serve county jail time, you're going a very small percentage of the time you're actually sentenced to.
Because of the overcrowding, I'm even seeing now where they're bringing people who would normally be serving state prison sentences into the county jail to serve their sentence because there's only a certain list of crimes that you actually serve in prison. That's causing more crowding in the county jail. The sheriff's only have so many deputies and so much room to be able to deal with all of these various inmates.
The very short answer to the question is, you can pretty much bank on doing a very small percentage of the time that you're actually sentence to. Another interesting fact is that the lower the amount of time is, the quicker you get out. In other words, for sentences of thirty or sixty days, people are out in a day or two. Sometimes they release them from the courthouse. Again, the sheriffs are not really basing it on anything other than over-crowdedness in the system. If they can't fit people into the inmate reception center, then they're not going to be able to bring them over there and they'll just have to let them go.
The only angle that I've seen that's different where they will keep people longer is on certain crimes. Domestic violence cases seem to be those type of cases where they have a tickler system that they're going to keep those people a little bit longer. You would think they would keep sex crime defendants a little bit longer, and sometimes they do, but most of the time if they're over-crowded, they just start letting everybody go.
So, if you have a case where you're facing jail time or you're considering doing jail time instead of actually doing some sort of Caltrans or something, you definitely want to sit down with an attorney who is familiar with the court system where your case is and who is familiar with the county jail system so you can get a good feel for what you're facing time-wise and what your best options are under the circumstances surrounding your case. That's the best way to deal with any criminal issue whether it be over-crowding in the jail or how much time you're going to serve on a particular sentence.
The bottom line is, your attorney is in the best position to guide you in making any decisions. A lot of people are concerned about the amount of time they're going to do because they have jobs and various other family obligations that they have to deal with, so that makes it very difficult for them to make the decision to say, you know what, I'm not going to do that much of the time, so I can't take any time. Even if I might get out in a few days, I can't take the risk that somehow the sheriffs keep me in their longer because I'll lose my job and various other bad things can happen. So, I obviously understand that as a criminal defense attorney and a lot of times I'm able to tell the prosecutors to look, this person's not going to do that much time in jail. They're willing to do a bunch of Caltrans in order to resolve this case. They can't go to jail. They'll lose their job. They have too many things on the line.
For example, in a domestic violence case a good argument is, if you make this person go to jail, they're going to lose their job. They won't be able to support their family and you're really punishing the victim in that regard. The prosecutors understand this, whether they like it or not, a lot of time we can get no jail-time offers because of the over-crowding in the county jail. They realize the person's not going to do that much of time and it's not really that much of a punishment if they get out in a day or two. So, it really just depends on the circumstances of your case on whether you're going to go to county jail, whether you're going to do some Caltrans or community service, and the best person to talk to about that and strategize with is your criminal defense attorney.
I talk about these issues almost every day about how much time a person is going to do in custody, whether doing local county jail time is better than doing a bunch of Caltrans or community service or other work that the person might not do, because if you are ordered to do Caltrans for example, and you don't do it and you mess around with it, the judge is just going to throw you in jail anyway, so you're going to end up with jail-time anyway.
So, this is where you really need to strategize with your attorney and make an informed decision so you can move forward and get out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.