Sentencing in Arizona: What Does Time Off for Good Behavior Mean? 

Posted On May 15, 2023 Arizona Laws,Criminal Defense Written by John Allen Phebus

In Arizona, if a defendant gets convicted of a crime and given a sentence that includes jail or prison time, he or she may have the opportunity for early release (on parole or probation) for good behavior. Knowing how this system works in Arizona can be helpful if you or a loved one is facing time behind bars for a recent criminal conviction.

What Is Arizona’s Truth-in-Sentencing Law?

Arizona is one of many states that has created early release programs for certain incarcerated individuals. These programs help keep the justice system fair for all defendants, provide incentives for rehabilitation and good behavior while in detainment, and ease the burden on the state’s criminal justice system. Arizona added earned release credits to its criminal laws in 1978. These laws were reformed in 1984 by the federal government to introduce the “truth-in-sentencing” rule.

Truth-in-sentencing guidelines were created to sentence defendants fairly and uniformly throughout the United States. They allow eligible prisoners to reduce their sentences due to good behavior, work records and other earned incentives. Truth-in-sentencing laws were passed into local regulations in Arizona in 1993. They are found in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 41-1604.07. This law states that for offenses committed on or after January 1, 1994, inmates who are eligible for earned release credits can earn up to a 15-percent reduction of his or her total sentence for good behavior.

What Is “Good Behavior”?

In the context of the criminal justice system, “good behavior” refers to an inmate’s exemplary compliance with the regulations set in place by the institution. If a prisoner follows the rules and regulations of the jail, prison or detention center, he or she is viewed as having good behavior. Consistent good behavior could lead to good behavior credits, which can ultimately reduce the amount of time the individual has to spend behind bars.

How to Get Time Off for Good Behavior

Arizona state law says that if a prisoner was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for marijuana crimes, dangerous drug crimes, narcotic drug crimes, or drug paraphernalia crimes; completed a drug treatment program or another self-improvement program; and has not been convicted of a violent or aggravated felony previously, he or she could receive a good behavior credit of three days for every seven days served. All other offenses can come with earned release credits of one day for every six days served.

There is a maximum available amount of good behavior credits of 15 percent of the inmate’s term of imprisonment. Even with consistent good behavior, the inmate must complete at least 85 percent of his or her sentence. It is also possible for a prisoner to lose good behavior credits. This can happen if the individual stops following the rules, does not cooperate with work or educational programs, or engages in any acts of violence. If the inmate returns to good behavior in the future, the director at the facility has the power to restore any forfeited credits.

If you accumulate good behavior credits while incarcerated in Arizona, you may be eligible for early release. This means you could be released from jail or prison days or even months earlier than the end of your original sentence. You will still need to comply with the terms of probation or parole, however, upon your release, and could be reentered into the county jail or state prison system if you violate these terms.

To learn more about how you can potentially decrease time spent in the prison system with good behavior, contact a criminal defense attorney in Arizona at the Law Offices of John Phebus for a free consultation.