How Long Does Someone Stay in County Jail?

How Long Does Someone Stay in County Jail?

Many people often use the words jail and prison interchangeably. However, these are two different terms, which have separate meanings when it comes to incarceration. What is the difference between jail and prison? 

Generally, one of the main differences between them is the length of stay an inmate can expect from their incarceration. County jail acts as a holding facility for defendants who are facing long prison sentences. It also houses inmates who have been sentenced to a short time (less than a year). 

The length of the jail stay depends on the severity of the crime. We'll go over the kind of lengths one might expect from a stay in county jail. We'll also explain the difference between county prisoners versus prison inmates who may be in county jail.

What's the Difference Between County Jail and Prison?

If you or someone you know is facing possible criminal charges, you'll want to understand the difference between county jail and prison. A person will only be sent to state or federal prison after being convicted of a serious crime (more than a year). People who have been sentenced to time in county jail are convicted of minor offenses with short jail stays. 

Because prisons hold inmates convicted of dangerous or violent crimes, prisons typically have stricter security and rules than county jails. Additionally, since inmates are serving longer sentences than those who are at county jails, there is more structure, routine, and activities for inmates. 

Who Stays in County Jail?

There are a couple of reasons why a person may find themselves incarcerated in county jail. One reason may be that the inmate has been convicted and sentenced to county jail because the charges were not serious and less than a year. Another reason someone might stay in county jail is because they are awaiting trial or transfer to a state or federal prison. Anyone who receives criminal charges (except in extreme circumstances) will pass through county jail before trial and conviction. If the inmate is unable to make bail before their trial, they must stay in county jail. 

For these reasons, there is a varied inmate population. A lot of inmates are only in county jails for minor offenses and will not stay long. Other inmates may be looking at serious or violent charges brought against them. 

How Does the Crime Affect Your Sentencing? 

If you are facing criminal charges, the nature of the crime will affect your sentencing, including the length of your jail stay and whether you end up in prison or not. For people who have been convicted of a minor crime or misdemeanor, it's likely the judge will sentence you to a short stay in county jail. Some examples of a misdemeanor include: 

  • Drunk driving
  • Shoplifting
  • Vandalism
  • Trespassing
  • Resisting arrest
  • Minor sex crimes 

Generally, sentences for county jail are short, like three months or up to a year. For people who are facing serious charges, like felonies, the time spent in county jail is only temporary. After an inmate's trial, conviction, and sentencing, they'll await transfer to a state or federal prison. Serious crimes might include assault, selling drugs, murder, kidnapping, or arson to name a few. 

How Long Is a Typical Stay in County Jail?

A jail stay will depend on the crime and circumstances of the inmate. Because of the short-term nature of county jails, there is a high-turnover rate of inmates. Someone could spend as little as a day in county jail before posting bail or up to a year if they're serving a sentence. 

If an inmate is waiting for their trial to begin, they may post bail and leave county jail shortly after arriving. However, for a lot of people facing serious criminal charges, affording bail is not a reality. Judges usually set bail amounts based on the seriousness of the crime. For violent offenses, the bail will be set pretty high. In this case, an inmate may have to spend the remainder of their time until conviction and sentencing in county jail. 

The time it takes for an inmate to go to trial varies based on the type of crime and the complexity of the charges. A misdemeanor may only take 90 days for it to go to trial, while a felony case may take closer to half a year. If a defendant can't make bail, this means a long stay in county jail. 

If a person has been charged with a crime and has the ability to post bail, the length of their stay in county jail will be shortened. After a person has been arrested, it usually takes up to 48 hours for the courts to set a bail amount. This length can vary based on how busy the courts may be at that time. However, a person should expect to spend at least several hours in county jail until they can post bail and leave the facility. 

County jail acts as a holding facility for people charged but not yet convicted of serious crimes. It also holds people convicted of minor offenses and serving short jail sentences. The length of a person's jail stay will vary depending on the type of crime and whether they can afford bail. Generally, county jails are more lax and have fewer programs available than state or federal prisons because they are designed to be short-term facilities. If you or someone you know might end up staying for a while in county jail, it's a good idea to research more about these types of facilities. You can search for a specific county jail's information on our search engine.