Time Served Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Time Served, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Time Served?

The sentence that a criminal or convict have spent in remand, while waiting for his trial or his bail application to be accepted, and where once found guilty will serve the full sentence less the time period already served while awaiting trial or bail.

History and Definition of Time Served

Time served is a term used in criminal law and sentencing to refer to the period of time that a defendant has already spent in custody awaiting trial, sentencing or other resolution of their case. This credit for time served is meant to avoid punishing defendants twice for the same period of time, that is, the time they have already spent incarcerated before they are sentenced.

The purpose of this legal term is to ensure that the time a person who has been accused of a crime spends in prison before the sentence is served is counted meaningfully towards their eventual sentence. For example, if an individual is found guilty of a crime and sentenced to five years in jail, and has already spent six months in prison, then the person would be credited with the six months "time served," thus reducing their total sentence to four years and six months.

Examples of Time Served

  1. John was arrested on drug charges, spent a year in jail awaiting trial, and after being found guilty, he served another two years in jail. The judge ruled that he had already spent one year in jail and ordered that the "time served" be credited toward his sentence of two years, reducing his total sentence to one year.

  2. In another case, Mary was arrested for assault and put in jail for six months before going to trial. After being found guilty, the judge sentenced her to one year in jail, but credited her with the six months "time served", resulting in only six months left to be served in prison.

  3. A defendant, Tom spent two years in jail while awaiting trial for aggravated battery. After being convicted, the judge sentenced him to ten years of imprisonment. The court credited Tom with the two years he already spent in jail as "time served", so the remaining sentence would be eight years.

Legal Terms Similar to Time Served

  1. Remand time: This is the period a defendant spends in custody while waiting for their trial.
  2. Concurrent sentence: Concurrent sentencing refers to the sentencing of a convicted defendant for multiple crimes all at once.
  3. Consecutive sentence: This refers to the sentencing of a convicted person for each crime committed, one after another.