How Much of My Prison Sentence Will I Have to Serve in Colorado?

In Colorado, eligibility for parole for most felony sentences occur at 50% of the original sentence, and both felony and misdemeanor sentences can accrue additional “earned time” sentence reductions.

When someone has been charged with a crime, one of the first questions they have is “how much time am I facing?”  The next question is usually “how much of that sentence will I actually have to serve?”  In Colorado, the news is good.

Felony Sentence Calculations

With some limited exceptions, if you are charged with a Class 2–6 felony, or a Level 1-4 drug felony in Colorado, you are generally eligible for parole after serving only 50% of your prison sentence.[1]  Additionally, one can accrue “earned time” sentence reductions at a rate of up to 10 days per month.[2]  Earned time can be accrued through the following seven activities:[3]

(a) Work and training, including attendance, promptness, performance, cooperation, care of materials, and safety;

(b) Group living, including housekeeping, personal hygiene, cooperation, social adjustment, and double bunking;

(c) Participation in counseling sessions and involvement in self-help groups;

(d) Progress toward the goals and programs established by the Colorado diagnostic program;

(e) For any inmates who have been paroled, compliance with the conditions of parole release;

(f) The offender has not harassed the victim either verbally or in writing;

(g) The inmate has made positive progress, in accordance with performance standards established by the department, in the literacy corrections program or the correctional education program established pursuant to article 32 of this title.

So, for example, assume someone has been convicted of Second Degree Burglary, a Class 3 felony, and sentenced to 10 years.  He or she would be eligible for parole after 5 years.  However, they can also deduct the earned time.  At 10 days a month, that’s 600 days off the sentence (120 days per year for 5 years).  Accordingly, he or she would be eligible for parole after about 3.5 years of a 10-year sentence.[4]

Misdemeanor Sentence Calculations

In Colorado, misdemeanor offenses are not eligible for parole.  However, misdemeanor offenses are generally served in county jails, which allow for other time credits.

First, misdemeanors are usually eligible for “good time” credit of up to 2 days a month.[5]  Additionally, a person may also be awarded “earned time of up to three days in any thirty-day period . . . for the successful completion of certain designated programs or educational activities, for outstanding progress in any assigned program or activity, or for unusual or extraordinary actions as determined by the county sheriff.”[6]

Finally, misdemeanor sentences are eligible for what is called “trustee time” of up to 10 days per month.[7]  This is time that is earned when anyone “confined in the county jail, undergoing any sentence in accordance with law, who [is] engaged in work within or outside the walls of the jail, and . . . [is] designated by the sheriff as trusty prisoners.”[8]

Assuming all the time available is earned, one could reduce his or her misdemeanor sentence by up to 50% (15 days a month), even without parole.  So whether you are facing a felony or a misdemeanor, a significant amount of your sentence can be reduced.

How I Help Protect Client Rights

As a criminal defense lawyer, I protect those charged with a crime in every legal way possible.  This includes giving those who decide to take a plea bargain all the information they need to get out of confinement as early as they can.  If you have been charged with a crime, give me a call.  All consultations are free and, with 15 years of criminal law experience, I’m confident I can help you obtain the best results possible.


[1] C.R.S. 17-22.5-403(1).  Exceptions to this include convictions for second degree murder, first degree assault, first degree kidnapping, first degree arson, first degree burglary, and aggravated robbery.  For those crimes, eligibility for parole occurs after serving 75% of the sentence.  C.R.S. 17-22.5-403(2.5).

[2] C.R.S. 17-22.5-405(1).

[3] C.R.S. 17-22.5-405(1)(a)-(g).

[4] Additionally, if you were charged with a Class 4-6 felony or a Level 3-4 drug felony, you could accrue up to twelve days of earned time per month under certain circumstances.  C.R.S. 17-22.5-405(1.5).

[5] C.R.S. 17-26-109(1).

[6] C.R.S. 17-26-109(2).

[7] C.R.S. 17-26-115.

[8] C.R.S. 17-26-115.

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