How to Get Credit for Time Served in Jail

Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2024 at 9:00 am    

How to Get Credit for Time Served in Jail

Many Illinois criminal violation convictions end in incarceration. However, just how much time a person can end up serving in jail is more complicated than you might think. A judge may hand down a sentence of one year, but do you serve the entire sentence? Can you get credit for the time served? Can you be released early?

At Bruno Law Offices, we know that facing jail time can be frightening. You want to spend as little time as possible behind bars, but understanding the extent of your sentence can be confusing. What does credit for time served mean, and how can you earn it? Our Illinois criminal defense team wants to help you understand the situation.

What Is Sentence Credit?

Illinois recognizes several forms of sentence credits. Sentence credit is a duration of time that can be subtracted from an incarcerated individual’s sentence following a conviction. The most common sentence credits in Illinois include:

  • Statutory Sentence Credit – A statutory sentence credit is the percentage of time an incarcerated person must spend behind bars by law. This percentage depends on the statute and offense committed by the individual. Convicted individuals typically must serve 50, 75, 85, or 100 percent of their sentence before release and can lose statutory sentence credit based on poor behavior while in custody.
  • Program Sentence Credit – Inmates can earn program sentence credit by participating in specific educational, life skills, or behavioral modification programs. Incarcerated individuals can also earn program sentence credit by completing drug treatment or re-entry planning courses. Not all inmates qualify to earn program sentence credit. Those convicted of offenses where they are required to complete 85 percent or 100 percent of their mandated sentence can participate in programs but are not eligible to earn sentence credit by completing the courses. House Bill 0094 recently revised eligibility for sentence credits and extended them to individuals who obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree while incarcerated.
  • Earned Sentence Credit – Earned sentence credits are discretionary and based on behavior. The Director of the Department of Corrections of their designee can refer up to 180 days of credit to an individual’s incarceration if they meet Illinois earned sentence credit guidelines.
  • Day-for-Day Credit – Inmates convicted of non-violent crimes may also be eligible for day-for-day credit, allowing offenders to earn credit at a rate of one day served for each day of their sentence. This credit structure can help reduce a sentence by half. Day-for-day credits do not apply if the offender is convicted of criminal sexual abuse or when the credits place them below the mandatory minimum sentence. 

How Is Time Served Calculated?

How to Get Credit for Time Served in Jail

Previously, nearly all inmates in Illinois could receive day-for-day credit, even those convicted of significant or violent crimes. Illinois lawmakers changed that after passing the Truth in Sentencing Act in 1998. The Truth in Sentencing Act or TIS changed Illinois law, limiting how long those convicted of specific crimes could earn off their non-life sentences. Felonies get broken down into categories that include specific caps on how much credit an inmate can earn. TIS guidelines are as follows:


  • Inmates must serve 100 percent of their sentence.
  • Felony offenses in category one include first-degree murder and terrorism.  


  • Inmates can only earn 4.5 days of credit per month.
  • Most inmates in category 2 are violent offenders convicted of crimes like attempted first-degree murder, criminal sexual assault of a child, murder for fire, aggravated DUI causing death, aggravated arson, and aggravated discharge of a firearm.


  • Inmates must serve 75 percent of their sentence.
  • Inmates in the 75 percent category are typically class X felony offenders with convictions for laundering money, drug trafficking, criminal drug conspiracy, and gunrunning.  


  • Inmates must serve 60 percent of their original sentence.
  • A new tier was added by the Public Act 100-3. 


  • Inmates can earn credit for half of their sentences. 

The new law means the nature of the crime and circumstances of the conviction impact how much of your sentence must be served in Illinois.

A Skilled Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You Make Sense of the Credit System

Trying to understand how much of your sentence you must serve and how you can earn credits while incarcerated can be confusing. At Bruno Law Offices, we want to help you understand the Illinois criminal justice system and what you can expect regarding time served and credits you may be eligible to earn. Call our Illinois office today at (217) 328-6000 or contact us online for a confidential consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.