From movie mistakes:

Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) loses her case and Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is found guilty. But as the judge is about to tell Father Moore his sentence, one of the jury members suggests that Father Moore's sentence be a "time spent" sentence, which means he is found guilty but doesn't do time.

This ending makes no sense to me. How can one be found guilty without punishment? I tried googling "time spent sentence" and "time spent prison sentence" but found nothing about this type of punishment.

1 Answer 1


In many jurisdictions - including the US, where the film is set - if you are handed a jail sentence, any time you have already spent in custody before and/or during your trial (known as "time spent on remand") is automatically deducted from your sentence. For example, if you're sentenced to a year in jail, but you've already spent three months on remand, then you'll only serve nine months. This does actually make sense, especially since criminal proceedings can drag on for much longer than three months.

A sentence of "time spent" (or "time served") means that your sentence is equal to the amount of time you've already spent in custody, meaning the two cancel each other out and you're free to go. Essentially, the jury decided that the time Father Moore had already spent in custody was punishment enough.

To provide an official example, the UK Crown Prosecution Service describes this process here. I imagine that the process in the US is not too different.

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