What Does “Time Served” Mean in SC?

What does “time served” mean in SC?

Sometimes, a person who has been in jail will be offered a “time served” plea where they plead guilty and go home – no more jail time and the case is over.

Other times, “time served” means the amount of time that is deducted from your sentence after a guilty plea or conviction at trial – add up the total number of days spent at the local jail, and that should be subtracted from the total sentence that is imposed.

Is time served automatic in SC, or is it in the judge’s discretion?

What happens if you are in jail for one charge but unable to bond out because another law enforcement agency has placed a hold on you for an unserved warrant? Technically, you haven’t been charged with the crime until they serve the warrant on you – does that count as time served?

Or, what about when a person is found to be incompetent to stand trial, committed to a hospital, and then convicted years later when they are “restored to competency?” Do they get credit for time served for the time they were locked in a mental hospital?

What Does Time Served Mean in SC?

Credit for time served, with few exceptions, is not in the Court’s discretion – if you have been sitting in jail waiting for a trial, you get credit for that time if you are later convicted and sentenced to prison time.

SC Code Section 24-13-40 mandates that full credit must be given for time served before trial or sentencing unless the person was an escapee from another prison, or the person was already serving a sentence on other charges:

In every case in computing the time served by a prisoner, full credit against the sentence must be given for time served prior to trial and sentencing . . . . Provided, however, that credit for time served prior to trial and sentencing shall not be given: (1) when the prisoner at the time he was imprisoned prior to trial was an escapee from another penal institution; or (2) when the prisoner is serving a sentence for one offense and is awaiting trial and sentence for a second offense in which case he shall not receive credit for time served prior to trial in a reduction of his sentence for the second offense.

Is Credit for Time Served Automatic in SC?

You won’t automatically get credit for your time served, though.

When the Court fills out your sentencing sheet at your plea hearing or sentencing hearing following a conviction, the Court must note on the sentencing sheet the number of days that you are to be given credit for.

Your attorney must know the dates of your arrest and release (if you were bonded out), add up the total number of days that you have served pre-trial, and ensure that the Court’s sentencing sheet accurately reflects the time that you have served. SCDC will then subtract that amount of time from your total sentence.

What if I’m Being Held on a Detainer for an Unserved Warrant?

What happens if you are in jail in Charleston County for a burglary charge but cannot bond out because Dorchester County has placed a hold on you for another burglary warrant that they have not yet served on you?

When you go to court on the previously unserved Dorchester County warrant, do you get credit for the time that you served in jail in Charleston even though, technically, it was for a different charge?


In Blakeney v. State, an inmate filed a post-conviction relief (PCR) action asking the Court to order time served because he was held in Berkeley County for an unserved warrant from Beaufort County – the SC Supreme Court agreed, and ordered that he be given credit for the time served:

If Beaufort County had executed the arrest warrant on September 1, 1992, [Blakeney] would have been entitled to bail; if unable to post a bond, he would have been given credit for time served in the Berkeley County jail while awaiting trial on the Beaufort County charge. Beaufort County’s decision not to execute the arrest warrant until December 2, 1993, fifteen months later, should not preclude [Blakeney] from receiving credit from September 1, 1992.

What if a Person Is Not Competent to Stand Trial?

In State v. Brown, the SC Court of Appeals found that a defendant is entitled to credit for time served in a psychiatric institution when:

  • Brown was charged with murder;
  • He was found not competent to stand trial after a forensic evaluation and he was civilly committed;
  • The state dismissed the murder charge;
  • He was then “restored to competency;”
  • The state re-indicted him on the murder charge; and
  • He pled guilty and was sentenced to a total of 35 years in prison.

The Court of appeals found that he was entitled to credit for time served for the time he spent in the hospital:

Although charges were no longer pending against Brown as of October 20, 2009, the State continued to receive information about Brown and was notified, pursuant to the probate court’s order, as soon as the Department believed Brown could be released due to his improved condition in early 2014. After the State was notified, it re-indicted Brown for the same charges on February 7, 2014, and requested another competency evaluation. Thus, it is clear from the probate court’s order and the subsequent actions of the solicitor that the State intended to prosecute Brown as soon as he regained competency.

Although Brown was technically not charged with the murder during the period of time he was civilly committed, there was no way he was going to be released without the solicitor being notified and the charges being reinstated. So, although he was not technically in jail, he was incarcerated pending trial and SC law says that he must be given full credit for the time he served.

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC criminal defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone represents people charged with crimes in SC state and federal courts.

If you have been charged with a crime or believe that you are under investigation in the Charleston, Georgetown, or Myrtle Beach areas of SC, call now at (843) 808-2100 or send an email to schedule a free consultation.