Criminal Law, Imprisonment & Sentencing FAQ

For many, being charged with a criminal offense is the first time they’ve ever been in trouble with the law, as well as the first time they or their loved ones have had to confront the criminal justice system. Because criminal proceedings can be daunting and complex, especially at a time when defendants face serious penalties and the prospect of incarceration, it can be difficult to grasp an understanding of how the process works. To provide you and your loved ones with more information about what to expect, our Reno criminal defense attorneys at Joey Gilbert law have answered a few commonly asked questions.

What is the difference between jail and prison?

Many people use the terms “jail” and “prison” interchangeably, but they are distinctly different institutions. Jails are typically operated and staffed by local governments, such as counties, and are designed to house individuals following their arrest and prior to their first appearance (although some individuals may be release prior to an initial hearing depending on the charge they face), defendants who are awaiting trial if they cannot make bail, and individuals who have been convicted of certain state crimes (often misdemeanors) that impose less than a 1-year sentence. Prisons, on the other hand, are operated by the state or federal government, and house individuals who have been convicted of more serious crimes (often felonies) that subject them to sentences of 1 year or more (or even less if the crime was handled in federal court).

Does a person charged with a crime spend time behind bars prior to their trial?

A person who has been arrested and charged with a crime may spend time behind bars while their case is pending, depending on the circumstances. Following an arrest, suspects are typically processed for booking at local jail or law enforcement office, such as a police station. Those who are not released on their own recognizance may be held until they have their first court appearance. They may then be able to make bail in order to secure their release until their case is resolved. However, not all suspects have the ability to post bail, and may therefore remain in jail until their trial or until their case is concluded, either through a dismissal of charges or a plea agreement. Not everyone in jail has been convicted of a crime.

What factors are considered when determining prison time or penalties?

There are a number of factors courts and judges consider when determining penalties or potential terms of imprisonment. These include:

  • The nature of the crime, including whether or not is was a misdemeanor or felony. Other factors related to the underlying charge and potential penalties may include whether the act was pre-meditated or an act of passion, whether the offender was an accessory to a main offender, and whether injuries or death were caused as a result of their actions.
  • Whether a defendant is being charged with a federal crime. Some federal crimes impose mandatory minimum sentences, and judges may also refer to sentencing guidelines when determining how long a convicted individual should spend in federal prison.
  • The defendant’s criminal history, including previous convictions for the same or similar charges.
  • Whether a defendant is on probation or parole. Violating terms of parole or probation can result in elevated penalties.
  • Whether the crime involves acts of violence or crimes committed against vulnerable individuals, such as children, the disabled, or elderly.

What types of prisons are there?

There are several types of institutions designed to house offenders. These include state jails and prisons as previously mentioned, as well as federal prisons. These prisons can also vary according to their classification, such as a minimum security prison or a maximum security prison. Juveniles under 18 are usually sentenced to juvenile detention facilities, and members of the armed services charges with crimes, which are handled in the military criminal justice system, may serve their sentences in military prisons. There are also other ways convicted individuals can be “incarcerated,” such as work furlough programs in which offenders are able to work during the day, but must report for lockdown at night.

What is parole?

Parole is the temporary release of a prisoner before they complete the sentence they were given. Parole is a type of conditional release, which means individuals must abide by certain rules (such as not being arrested for a new crime or using controlled substances) in order to maintain their freedom. The federal criminal justice system does not have parole, but it does have federal probation, which functions in a similar way after the offender has served their sentence.

What is mandatory supervision?

Mandatory supervision refers to the court’s oversight of an individual who has been released from jail or prison. It is often referred to as probation. Individuals on probation may have various levels and terms of court oversight, depending on their charges, and must comply with conditions established by the court while the period of supervision is in effect. Violating these terms, also known as a probation violation, can result in new and enhanced charges and penalties.

What issues does a young offender have to deal with in prison?

Young offenders under the age of 18 are typically sentenced to incarceration in juvenile detention facilities when convicted of juvenile crimes, but may be prosecuted and sentenced as adults to state prisons under certain circumstances. Whether sentenced to juvenile detention facilities, transferred to adult prisons when they become adults, or sentenced directly to prison, young offenders face significant challenges. These not only relate to conflict among prisoners and older inmates, but also to the fact that younger individuals who are incarcerated have higher rates of recidivism, or a greater likelihood of reoffending and being incarcerated again.

Are there ways to avoid prison time?

Avoiding imprisonment is one of the top priorities for any defendant and criminal defense lawyer, including our attorneys at Joey Gilbert Law. In an effort to help our clients maintain their freedom, we work aggressively to defend them against the changes and penalties they face. Obtaining a dismissal of charges or not guilty verdicts are two ways to avoid incarceration, but so are negotiations and deals with prosecutors that keep defendants from behind bars. In some cases, such as those involving certain drug crimes, we also pursue alternative sentencing options such as work release, community service, probation, or drug counseling in lieu or jail or prison sentences.

If you have questions or concerns regarding imprisonment and other penalties posed by criminal allegations, do not wait to speak with an experienced Reno criminal defense lawyer from Joey Gilbert Law. Our legal team is available 24/7 to discuss your case, rights, and defense during a FREE consultation. Call (775) 574-4774 to get started.

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