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You committed a crime, broke the law, and got convicted. Now you have to spend a year in jail. Or, do you?
How would you like to spend that year at home instead? There are many alternatives to jail including a suspended sentence, probation, fines, and community service. In some, cases you might be eligible for house arrest. When under house arrest, you will be confined to your home and required to wear a monitoring device instead of spending your days in jail. So the word arrest is not totally correct, it is really 'house sentencing.'
Sounds like a better option, right? But here are five things you may not know about house arrest:
1. It's Not 24 Hours a Day, Seven Days a Week.
The assumption is that house arrest is like being in jail, but at home. You have to be there all day, every day. However, this is not always the case.
Depending on your circumstances, such as the severity of the crime and your criminal record, the judge may allow "breaks" from house arrest. You may be able to go to work, school, doctors appointments, counseling sessions, community service, and other court approved activities. The court may also order a curfew and expect you to go and return directly from the allowed activity.
However, you will have to wear the ankle monitor, or electronic monitoring transmitter, 24/7.
2. You'll Have To Pay.
House arrest is cheaper for the court system than putting you in jail. Incarcerating a person in prison can cost over $20,000 a year. Confining a person at home can be as cheap as $6,000 a year. Plus, you'll be paying some of the costs.
Most of the time, you will be required to pay a weekly or monthly amount towards the cost of your monitoring device and the monitoring service. The price of house arrest varies from probation department to probation department. Some have a set price for everybody. Some determine price on a sliding scale based on ability to pay.
3. No Time Credits.
One disadvantage to house arrest is that you won't be able to take advantage of good time credits.
Good time credits is an incentive system that could allow you to serve less of a jail sentence as a reward for good behavior. Good time credit calculations vary from state to state. Let's assume that you can get credit for one additional day for each day served. So, if your jail sentence is 120 days, conceivably, you may only have to spend 60 days in jail because of good time credits.
With house arrest, there is no good time credit. You would have to spend the full 120 day sentence under house arrest.
4. Not Just For After You're Convicted.
House arrest isn't just for after you've been convicted and sentenced. You can also be ordered under house arrest as a condition of bail. Bernie Madoff, charged with defrauding investors of billions of dollars, was released on $10 million bail and house arrest pending his trial.
5. Break The Rules and You're in Jail.
Just like parole, if you violate any conditions of house arrest, you can be immediately arrested and sent to jail to serve the rest of your sentence in captivity.
House arrest rules and regulations can vary widely from state to state and county to county. If you are convicted of a crime and want to pursue house arrest as an alternative to jail, an experienced local criminal defense attorney may be able to help.