Written by attorney Stephen G Rodriguez

Sentencing Alternatives to Jail/Prison

What is Alternative Sentencing?

As more and more prisons and local jails suffer from overcrowding, many states have begun considering alternative sentences to incarceration. These alternatives not only alleviate over-stretched resources and budgets, but also help ensure that the punishment is more fitting to the crime. This way, serious offenders don’t get off with a light probation sentence and unlucky “light" offenders don’t end up serving time for relatively minor crimes.

Some common alternatives include community service, work release programs, graffiti clean-up, as well as drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. The judge may choose to assign you one or more of these alternative sentences instead of the statutorily defined jail time for your crime. It will be up to your attorney to offer the right combination of alternatives that the judge and prosecutor will accept as adequate punishment for you.

Who is Eligible for Alternative Sentencing?

Alternative sentencing isn’t necessarily available to everyone. Depending on your circumstances, you may or may not be eligible for these alternatives. Generally, alternative sentencing is reserved for defendants with the following characteristics:

  • A serious, non-violent felony wasn’t involved
  • Defendant hasn’t committed numerous or repeat crimes
  • Defendant does not pose a risk to the public

Common Alternative Sentences

Below is more information on some of the most common alternative sentences. Many of them you may have already heard of, while others you may be not have known about. Keep in mind that the variety of alternative sentence options available depends on your particular state’s laws.

  • Community Service: You may be required to work in city organizations or perform clean up duties in and around your city.
  • Electric Monitoring / House Arrest / Home Detention: Your mobility is monitored and/or limited via an electronic device like an ankle bracelet. This ankle bracelet monitors your whereabouts at all times. You may attend necessary functions, such as school, work, church, and other activities approved by the program's administrator. Electronic monitoring may be court-issued or you may have to apply for it independent of the court with the help of an attorney.
  • Work Release / Work Furlough Programs: You go to a designated work site, usually on a daily basis, to perform physical labor. At the end of the workday, you can go home or to return to a housing dormitory facility other than county jail. You have to return to the work site until the work release or work furlough program requirements have been successfully fulfilled. Work furlough programs are hard to obtain in Los Angeles. Some of the counties surrounding Los Angeles do have a few limited programs.
  • City Jail / Private Jail: You’re able to continue working and complete the sentence on weekends in a private, city jail. You check yourself in on Friday afternoon and are released on Sunday afternoon. Specific eligibility requirements apply. You may be required to pay a fee for weekend stays.

Drug-Related Alternative Sentences

  • Drug courts: If you were a drug user, the judge may sentence you to drug treatment options for your alternative sentence. This strict program includes random drug testing and can be successful for treating drug dependence habits.
  • Diversion and rehabilitation programs: You’re required to complete a series of drug educational programs for a certain period of time. If you complete all required classes and programs, charges may be dismissed. If all classes are successfully completed the conviction may be avoided altogether.
  • Sober living: You’re housed in a private facility geared mainly for those with alcohol abuse problems. You can expect individual and group therapy sessions, along with required house chores. House rules and curfews are enforced.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

It is important that you speak to an attorney who is experienced in these matters well in advance of any verdict or any plea negotiation.

Additional resources provided by the author

The Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Associates can help you with your alternative sentencing needs. We have assisted many people seeking an alternative to jail. Call us at (213) 223-2173 for a FREE CONSULTATION!

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer