What is the difference between active and suspended jail time?
Thomas Soldan: A lot of times, a Virginia criminal lawyer will go over a potential negotiation with the prosecutor and talk about active and suspended jail time. In Virginia, the judges and the prosecutors often count things in terms of the total length of the punishment and the amount of time it is suspended. Active time means time that a person actually has to physically lose their liberty and go to jail. Suspended time means that the time is suspended and the person does not go to jail as long as they complete certain probationary terms such as good behavior or other requirements depending on the specific circumstances of their case.
An example of this is that it is not uncommon for a person who is charged with a larceny offense for the first time to receive all suspended time. For example, six months in jail with six months of suspended time. That means that the person does not actually spend six months in jail; they spend zero active days in jail. However, if they were to violate their probation or not follow the conditions of probation, not pay court costs, not pay any fines, or not follow any further direction from the court, they would have to come back before the court and answer a show cause as to why they shouldn’t be exposed to those six months that were previously suspended.