In California, defendants convicted of a crime and sentenced to a determinate term in the state prison are generally required to serve their entire sentence imposed by the court except for a reduction in the time served as a result of their performance in work, training or education programs organized by the prison administration. This reduction in an inmate’s prison sentence is usually referred to as work time credits, which allow inmates to earn custody credits against their term of imprisonment. Under the law, for every six months of continuous incarceration, a prisoner may be awarded credit reductions for up to six months from his or her term of confinement. Accordingly, it is possible for a prisoner to receive a 50 percent reduction in his or her sentence.
However, a work time credit is a privilege, not a right. It has to be earned, and may be forfeited if an inmate has committed a crime, has refused to satisfactorily perform labor, or has not satisfactorily complied with the reasonable rules and regulations. The law also imposes an additional limitation on inmates’ ability to earn work time credits when they are convicted of violent felonies. Such individuals are ineligible to receive work time credits in excess of 15 percent even though they may be otherwise eligible for a 50 percent work time credits. A violent felony conviction includes mayhem, rape, sodomy, robbery, arson, kidnapping, or any felony in which the defendant inflicted great bodily injury on another person. A person who is convicted of murder, however, is not entitled to receive any work time credit.
An important issue arises, when, for example, an individual is convicted of both violent and nonviolent felonies. Will the inmate still be eligible for a 50 percent reduction in his or her sentence? Last term, the California Supreme Court held that such defendants were entitled to only 15 percent work time credits, even when the sentence for a violent felony was stayed by the trial court. In the same manner, an individual who is convicted of murder and another offense, for which such a person is eligible for a 50 percent sentence reduction, is not entitled to any presentence conduct credit even if the trial court stayed the execution of the sentence for murder. Since the court’s decision applies retroactively to inmates who were released on parole, many of them must return to prison to complete their newly calculated prison terms.
The Law Office of Domenic J. Lombardo handles all aspects related to criminal sentencing in San Diego County. For immediate legal help, contact San Diego criminal defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo at (619) 232-5122 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.