Serving time in a county jail is a component of sentencing for many California criminal violations. Nevertheless, many clients never actually serve time in jail. There are many reasons why this is the case, and the facts and circumstances surrounding each case are different. Sentencing alternatives, such as House Arrest, are commonly used to prevent a client from having to serve time in jail, which results in interruptions in family and social life, as well as the possibility of the client losing their job.

The term "House arrest," often used interchangeably with "Home Confinement," "Home Detention," or "Electronic Monitoring," is a type of alternative sentencing providing clients with alternatives to a jail or prison sentence. I have written this Blog in an attempt to answer some of the basic questions clients have posited regarding these alternatives.

So what is House Arrest? Although House Arrest can exclusively confine you to your residence, that isn’t always the case, and, in fact, rarely is. When the judge places a client on Home Confinement or detention, he or she orders you to abide by specific terms and conditions that restrict your freedom and mobility. This may still feel like punishment, as well it should, but it is still more desirable than traditional incarceration. Common terms and conditions include: curfew restriction; random drug testing; and/or face to face meetings in a County Probation Office or at the client’s home. Depending upon the severity of the client’s offense and criminal record, a judge may even allow the client to work or attend school, travel to medical appointments, attend and participate in counseling appointments, alcohol and/or drug classes, community service, tend to family obligations, attend religious gatherings, and participate in any other court-approved activities provided that the client only travel to and from court-approved appointments and that the client is in his or her home when otherwise required to be there. (Cal. Pen. Code, section 1203.016.)

Of course, clients must understand that a judge will not simply offer house arrest on his or her own. It is a privilege which must be requested by a skilled criminal defense lawyer. The attorney has to know how to convince the prosecutor and judge that the client is deserving of such an opportunity and that the client will benefit from the use of alternative sentencing. As with anything these days, there is a cost associated with this type of alternative. It is important for the client to understand that as an offender, the client is generally responsible for paying any costs that are associated with regulating his or her house arrest, although you cannot be prevented from participating in this type of program based exclusively on inability to pay. (Cal. Pen. Code section 1203.016(g).)

So how does it work? House Arrest is monitored via an electronic monitoring system. Electronic monitoring is administered in a number of ways, depending upon the County in which the client lives. Commonly used methods include: basic electronic transmission; global positioning systems, or GPS; the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor Device, or SCRAM; and drug patches.

What happens when a client violates the terms of home detention? When the monitoring agency receives an alert that a client has violated the terms and conditions imposed on them in connection with their house arrest, it notifies the probation or parole officer. The probation or parole office is then allowed to arrest you without relying on an arrest warrant. (Cal. Pen. Code, section 1203.016(c).) Thereafter, a probation violation hearing will occur at which the judge may believe that the client violated the terms and conditions of the home detention and may therefore revoke the house arrest and order the client to serve the remainder of his or her sentence in jail or prison. This is, of course, yet another reason a client should have an experienced California criminal defense attorney working for them. Here at the firm, our criminal defense attorneys know the most persuasive arguments to convince a judge to allow you another opportunity to comply with home confinement before he or she imposes jail time.

For questions about California house arrest, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at the Law Office of Frank R. Pabst. We are committed to knowing the prosecutors in the City and District Attorney Offices as well as the judges of the local County Courts. Look for more useful information in past and future blogs about criminal defense work here at the Firm.