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I've been offered "time served," which means I can go home right away. Any reason not to agree?
Time that defendants spend in jail before they are
convicted (called pretrial detention) may be credited toward the total length
of the sentence. This is called time served. A defendant unable to make bail
may spend time in jail before a plea bargain or a trial takes place—sometimes
days, sometimes months, and in very rare instances, years. It is not unusual in
minor first-time offenses for a plea bargain to be struck whereby the
defendant’s total punishment is time served plus probation.
While time served sounds terrific and most offenders
jump at the chance to be let out of jail right away, this option is by no means
a “get out of jail free” card. There are serious consequences that a defendant
should not take lightly:
Criminal record. The offender will still have a criminal record; time
served doesn’t erase the conviction.
Can you handle probation? Time served is almost always given in conjunction with
probation and sometimes a fine, community service, or both. Probation may have
onerous conditions attached to it. Defendants who violate even one of the
probation conditions may be returned immediately to jail. Because of this, some
defendants (especially those who have been around the block and know that they're not going to reform immediately) may wisely choose to avoid the fine or probation conditions and
serve the entire jail time outright, especially if the charge is relatively
minor and the local jail is routinely releasing defendants early.
by: Janet Portman
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