The amount of credits you can earn depend on whether you are in county jail awaiting trial, or serving a sentence, or in state prison serving a sentence. Understanding both will give you a rough understanding of how much time you will actually do.
County or Local Time
Penal Code A? 4019 sets forth the amount of credit you will get toward time served in California. The easy rule to remember is you will receive credit for 1/3 of your actually sentenced time. If you are in jail and awaiting trial and get convicted you will be credited the same amount of time toward your prison term.
The way the statute is written contains a small anomaly. You get one day out of six credit for observing regulations and one day out of six for good time. For credits to kick in your sentence must be six days or more. If you get sentenced to 5 days you will get no credits and serve the entire five days. This is why your lawyer may suggest a six day sentence to the judge instead of five. With a six day sentence, you will get out in four days.
State Prison Time
Penal Code A? 2933 states that for every six months of performance in a credit qualifying program you get six months off, or one day off for one served. You can do better than that if you qualify to serve in a Conservation Camp where you earn two days of credit for every day served ( PC A? 2933.3). There are important exceptions. If you have served a prior prison term you only get 20% credits (PC 667(a)(5). If you've been convicted of a violent crime as defined in PC A? 667.5 you only get 15% credits. And for certain specified crimes you get no credits (murder, voluntary manslaughter, mayhem, kidnapping and certain sexual crimes (see PC A? 2933.5 for a complete list).
Credits Are a Privilege
The credits described herein are a privilege not a right and may be taken away for misconduct or non-compliance with program rules.
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