Typically bail is required for a criminal defendant to receive credit for the time he spends in jail prior to his case’s disposition–whether through a plea or a trial.

Frequently criminal defendants are charged with different offenses in different courts. This could result in the defendant being held on one case, while no bail is imposed on the other.

For example, suppose a defendant is indicted in superior court for a serious offense. The superior court judge imposes a $10,000 bail which the defendant cannot afford. Consequently, the defendant is detained in the county jail while his case is being handled.

While in jail, the defendant is charged with a new offense. Say, for instance, that he had a minor tussle with another inmate. He’s charged with assault and battery in district court. At the defendant’s district court arraignment, the defense counsel should ask that only a nominal bail amount (say $25 or $50) be set. This way the defendant, who is held on the superior court bail, can also start accumulating jail credit for his district court offense.

Having the maximum amount of jail credit allowable will be to the defendants advantage if/when he tenders a plea. It will also be to his advantage, if the case is brought to trial and the defendant is found guilty. Whatever sentence he receive at that time, will be mitigated by the credit that he racked up prior to the conviction.

I should point out that some judges strictly adhere to this rule while others do not. Nevertheless, you should err on the side of caution and always request a nominal bail when the circumstances call for it.