There are many alternatives to jail including fines, probation and community service. Among these is house arrest in which you are be kept as a prisoner in your own home instead of spending your days in jail.
House arrest is usually given to first-time, non-violent offenders. It's cheaper for the state to grant than incarceration in a jail or prison.
There are no specific crimes that automatically lead to a house arrest, but it's generally seen as a good jail alternative for low-risk, non-violent offenders.
Types of House Arrest
As the name implies, house arrest involves being confined to your own home in jail-like conditions rather than going to prison. It usually works with some kind of monitoring device such as an ankle bracelet to monitor the prisoner's movements. The monitor might even detect the level of alcohol in a prisoner's bloodstream.
House arrest is economical: monitoring someone at home costs around $6,000 a year compared to costs over $20,000 per year to keep someone in prison.
There are many types of house arrest, and it's actually quite unusual for an offender to stay at home 24 hours a day. Some get to go to work or school and attend pre-approved activities like counseling or rehabilitation programs. Most are on some sort of curfew where they have to be home by certain hours. They're typically not permitted to go out after dark.
In this respect, house arrest allows offenders to serve their time while earning an income, accessing the proper rehabilitation, and maintaining positive community relationships which would not be available in a prison or juvenile detention facility.
House Arrest as a Sentence
House arrest sits somewhere in the middle on the scale of sentencing – it's more lenient than a prison sentence but harsher than a fine or probation. A judge might consider a sentence of house arrest when jail time would be appropriate but the prisoner is deemed to be too sick or vulnerable to survive the prison environment.
Non-violent offenders might also be sentenced to house arrest when they have steady jobs and relatively clean rap sheets. Repeat and violent offenders are probably not going to get away with home confinement.
House Arrest as a Bail Condition
A judge might also impose house arrest as a bail condition in lieu of the defendant spending time in jail awaiting trial. The court is primarily concerned with flight risk prior to sentencing. Given the suspect's criminal history and family situation, is he likely to run? A judge might order that the defendant stay at home on a monitoring device until the trial date if the answer to this question is "yes."
How to Get House Arrest
There are no specific house arrest crimes that automatically get a jail alternative. You have to ask for it. Generally, those who are considered suitable for home confinement include first-time offenders, non-violent offenders and offenders who are sick or otherwise vulnerable to abuse in prison. Additionally, an individual with a steady employment history or a minor living with her parents might be sentenced to house arrest over jail.
Qualifying individuals and their lawyers can ask for house arrest during the individuals' trials. Only a judge can sentence a guilty defendant to house arrest. A defendant must demonstrate to the judge and the court why house arrest is a favorable alternative to jail. He can do this by providing evidence such as testimony from people who know him and documentation such as an affidavit from his employer stating that he's a critical part of the company's operations and must continue working.
In many cases, a judge will sentence a qualifying offender to house arrest when jail is too "hard" but parole is too "soft" a punishment. You're expected to contribute to the cost of your own house arrest in many states, at least to the extent that you're able. This typically includes the cost of the ankle bracelet, a setup cost of around $200 and a daily use fee of about $5 to $15.