Legal Dictionary

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Determinate Sentence

A determinate sentence is a sentence for a fixed length of time of incarceration, as opposed to an unspecified duration. It is also referred to as a definite sentence, fixed sentence, flat sentence or straight sentence. California has a determinate sentencing system in which three (low, middle, and high term) specific terms of imprisonment are provided depending on the nature of the crime.

For example, a conviction for felony sexual battery has a determinate sentencing exposure of 2, 3, or 4 years. California also has an indeterminate sentencing system. For example, the sentence for first degree murder in California which is 25 years to life. See also, Indeterminate Sentence.