Some Judges Don't Give Enough Credit

beach chair.jpgWhen a person is arrested in Orlando and spends five (5) days in jail before bonding out, we call that "five days credit time served". But what happens when the same person is arrested on two cases, and spends that same five days in jail? If the system is functioning correctly, the citizen should be given five days credit time served on each case. Unfortunately, things don't always go quite so smoothly.

Take the case of Milligan v. State, 88 So.3d 1031 (Fla.App. 2nd DCA 2012). Steven Milligan was charged with violating his probation (VOP) on two separate felony charges by being arrested on a new allegation of burglary of a conveyance. Both of Milligan's probation periods were running at the same time (concurrent). (It's a pretty common for citizens to be on probation for multiple charges because 'global plea offers' often package up various charges into one big probation sentence)

Now, we all know what typically happens on a felony VOP, the probationer is served with a no bond warrant for violation. "No bond" simply means that the probationer must sit in jail until the violation is resolved, he cannot bond out. And to make matters worse, here's where government incompetence comes into play--Milligan was only arrested on one of the violation cases (some would say this is a malicious tactic of various jail systems to rob defendants of their credit time served, and that's possible too, more on this later).

Milligan's first VOP arrest was on July 25th. Logic would dictate that Milligan would be arrested on both probation violations, as he was serving two probation sentences at the same time. But that's not what happen. So, Milligan was sitting in jail, starting on July 25th, on only one violation--not both. Then, on October 16th, he was served with the second violation of probation warrant.

You see what's happening here? Milligan was given jail credit on the first VOP from July 25th. However, the judge refused to start his jail credit on the second VOP on July 25th, he started it on October 16th instead because the arrest date on the second case was months later. For you non-math wiz's, that's an 83 day difference--a huge amount of time in jail years. Thankfully, the appeals court granted Milligan additional credit time served on his multiple cases.

The beauty of this case is twofold. First, Milligan did this appeal without an attorney--good work. Second, his scenario is more common than you might think. Often times, jails will simply "sit" on a warrant of an inmate with multiple charges, so that the inmate does not receive "credit for time served" on that warrant. Then, when the inmate has completed his first case, the jail will serve the second warrant, thus starting the credit for time served clock at that later date. Many times, the appeals courts will not let the jails get away with this. And fortunately, "most" local judges understand the law well enough to give credit where credit is due. I said "most". For those defendants stuck in a courtroom with a judge that doesn't understand the law, an appeal takes years to complete--and by then the incorrect sentence was long since completed. You can't get back that lost time later, so it's important for defense attorneys to recognize this issue early.