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How long can you be held in jail without being convicted?

by Eric Bennett
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How long can you be held in jail without being convicted?

Being held in jail without being convicted is a challenging and often frustrating experience. If you or someone you know is currently in this situation, then you are likely wondering about the length of time that you can be held without being judged guilty of the alleged wrongdoing. In this article, we look at some aspects of being held in jail without being convicted, including reasons for detention, your rights, and what you can do if you find yourself in this position.

What Does It Mean To Be Held in Jail Without Being Convicted?

Legal Definition of Being Held in Jail Without Being Convicted

When someone gets detained or arrested by the police, it means that they are in the custody of the state. As a defendant or someone who is detained, you may be allowed a release under certain conditions or held in the jail until the trial begins.

What Happens During Pretrial Detention?

Pretrial Detention is a period between an individual’s arrest and their trial when they are held in jail. During this time, the individual is considered innocent until proven guilty. The primary purpose of pretrial detention is to make sure that the detained person appears in court to answer to their charges. In most cases, pretrial detention can last for several months or even years, depending on various factors which will elaborate later in this article.

How Long Can You Be Held in Jail Without Being Convicted?

The length of time that you can be held in jail without being judged guilty or without being sentenced for the offense you were charged with will depend on several factors. These may include the severity of the charges against you, the strength of the evidence, criminal record, and other factors. In general, the time duration for which you may be held in jail can range from a few hours to several years, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.

What Are My Rights If I Am Being Held in Jail Without Being Convicted?

Right to an Attorney

When held in jail without being convicted, you have several rights, the most crucial of which is the right to a defense attorney. This right is enshrined in the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees you the right to be represented by counsel during your criminal case proceedings. Your defense attorney should be present at all times, be able to advise you on your legal options and to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected.

Right to a Speedy Trial

The right to a trial without undue delay is another of your constitutional rights. The Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the US Constitution protect your right to a speedy trial. This means that you must be tried within a reasonable time, which is generally considered 70 to 90 days after being charged. However, this rule can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case and the court’s busy schedule.

Right to Bail

Another right that a defendant has is the right to bail. Bail allows for the release of the defendant while they await their court hearing. The bail amount is a financial guarantee that the defendant will appear in court to answer the charges against them. The bail amount is typically set by the court, and it can vary depending on the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and other factors. In some situations, the accused may not be able to afford the bail amount. In such circumstances, they might seek help from a bail bondsman.

What Factors Determine How Long I Can Be Held in Jail Without Being Convicted?

The Severity of the Charges

The severity of the charges you face can determine how long you can be held in jail without being convicted. For example, if you face a minor misdemeanor charge, you might be released on bail within a few hours or days. In contrast, if you face major felonies such as murder or treason, the process might take months or even years before you go to trial.

The Strength of the Evidence Against You

The strength of the evidence against you can significantly impact how long you are held in jail without being convicted. If the prosecution has compelling evidence that links you to the alleged wrongdoing, then you might be held in jail for an extended period. However, if the evidence is not strong, the prosecution may release you on bail.

Your Criminal Record

The law considers a defendant’s criminal history when determining how long they can be held in jail without being convicted. If you have a prior criminal record, you might be held longer than someone with a clean background. This is due to the argument that your previous criminal history has exposed you to a higher risk of offending again if released.

What Can I Do If I Am Being Held in Jail Without Being Convicted?

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

Hiring a criminal defense attorney is one of the best things you can do if you’re held in jail without being convicted. As earlier stated, a defense attorney can help protect your rights and give you sound legal advice. They will also work to ensure that you are not unlawfully detained for longer than necessary.

Request Bail or Bond

If you cannot afford the bail amount set by the court, then you may opt to request for a bail bond. In this case, you would pay a percentage of the bail amount to a bail bondsman, who will then post the bail amount in exchange for collateral or security. In most cases, the collateral can include property or cash. A bail bondsman’s services are always beneficial to those who cannot pay the bail amount set by the court.

Seek a Writ of Habeas Corpus

If you feel that your continued detention violates your constitutional rights, then you can seek a writ of habeas corpus. This is a court order that requires the government to bring you before the court and show cause why you’re being held. A writ of habeas corpus is appropriate when the government unlawfully detains you or continues to hold you in custody in violation of your constitutional rights.

What Happens After I Am Convicted?


Sentencing is the imposition of a criminal punishment by the court after you’re found guilty of the crime you were charged. The sentencing process is usually guided by the law that defines the punishment for the specific offense. The sentencing may include jail time, fines, community service, or a combination of these penalties.

Jail Time and Fines

For some criminal offenses, jail time and fines are the most common punishment. The jail sentence may vary from a few months to several years depending on the nature of the offense. Fines, on the other hand, are imposed to ensure that the defendant pays for the harm they caused, earns revenue for the state, and acts as a deterrent for the defendant and the public.

Possibility of Appealing

After receiving a sentence, you may choose to appeal the decision. Suppose you or your attorney believe that you were unfairly prosecuted or sentenced. In that case, you can lodge an appeal and request the appellate court or higher court to overturn the verdict or sentence. Please note that appeals are a complex process that can take months or years to complete.

In conclusion, being held in jail without being convicted is an arduous period that can last for an extended period. By retaining a criminal defense attorney or bail bondsman, you can improve the chances of getting released sooner. Additional resources like the writ of habeas corpus can be used if you feel you’re being detained unlawfully. Remember that the severity of the charges, the strength of the evidence, and your criminal record can determine how long you remain in jail.

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