How Does House Arrest Work?

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 What is House Arrest?

House arrest, also referred to as “electronic monitoring,” is one type of criminal sentence that is an alternative to incarceration in jail or prison. The arrestee is usually fitted with an electronic monitoring device on their ankle that cannot be easily removed. The device uses GPS to monitor the arrestee’s movement and location.

Someone on house arrest is generally not limited to being in their home, but is only permitted to leave for certain pre-approved locations and activities. Their movement and freedom is still controlled and monitored, however unlike being incarcerated, house arrest allows a person the ability to continue participating in society and at home.

For example, someone on house arrest may be allowed to go to work, attend school, go to medical appointments, attend court appearances, and participate in meetings with their lawyer. Typically a person on house arrest has a curfew and must be home by a certain time.

House arrest includes a set of restrictions that must be followed. The following house arrest rules are fairly standard in most cases:

  • The arrestee is assigned a probation officer who will monitor compliance and periodically meet with the arrestee to make sure they are meeting all of the requirements of their sentence. The probation officer may also conduct “surprise” or random check-ins with the arrestee.
  • The arrestee may be required to abstain from both drugs and alcohol. The probation officer can check and make sure prohibited substances are not in the arrestee’s home.
  • The arrestee must adhere to the evening curfew.
  • The arrestee must submit to random drug testing.
  • In many cases the arrestee must also participate in community service as part of their sentence.

Violating the house arrest rules can result in the arrestee serving out the remainder of their sentence in jail or prison.

Who is Eligible for House Arrest?

In order to be eligible, offenders usually must meet certain qualifications for house arrest. House arrest is typically available for non-violent offenders. It is also more common for first time offenders than repeat offenders. The offender must have a place to live that is in or near the jurisdiction sentencing them. In most cases the offender must have a landline telephone in their home. The court will also consider the offender’s employment opportunities and their family and community support when deciding if house arrest is an appropriate punishment.

An offender who used their home in the commission of the crime they are being punished for may not be eligible for house arrest.

How Do I Apply for House Arrest?

In most cases the prosecutor in the criminal case will make a recommendation for sentencing, but it is up to the judge to decide whether the offender is eligible for house arrest. One role of a criminal attorney is to illustrate why their client is a good candidate for house arrest.

During the sentencing phase of the trial you and your attorney will need to demonstrate that you meet the eligibility requirements in that particular jurisdiction. For example, you may need to show the following:

  • This was your first offense.
  • You were convicted of a non-violent crime and do not have a history of violence.
  • You have a history of steady employment or can demonstrate that you will be able to secure a job.
  • You have a home and strong family and/or community support.

You can bring any documents to court that will help you demonstrate that you are a good candidate for house arrest. Your lawyer can also arrange to have witnesses testify on your behalf during sentencing.

What Happens If I Violate House Arrest?

If you violate the terms of house arrest your probation officer will decide whether to give you a warning or order you to appear in court for a hearing. A home confinement violation might result in the probation officer recommending that the remainder of the sentence be served in jail or prison. If the violation was minor, the court might also adjust the curfew or the list of acceptable reasons to be outside of the home.

The penalties for a home confinement violation will depend on the facts and circumstances of the violation. For example, the court might be more lenient if the violation was due to a personal or family medical emergency.

Can I Leave My Home At All While Under House Arrest?

House arrest is a somewhat misleading term, since in almost every case the arrestee is allowed to leave their home for pre-approved reasons or locations outlined in the Home Detention Agreement. Some of the reasons an arrestee can leave their home include:

  • Work
  • School
  • Medical appointments
  • Counseling
  • Community service
  • Church
  • Drug testing
  • Meetings with the probation officer

The arrestee may also request and be granted permission to leave for other reasons, but those decisions are made by the probation officer on a case-by-case basis. The arrestee may be given more freedom of movement within a certain distance of their home and only before the predetermined curfew.

How Do Authorities Know That I Am at Home?

House arrestees are fitted with an electronic monitoring device that is usually placed on their ankle. It uses GPS to monitor the arrestee’s location and movement. The device is monitored by the local police department or a third party provider who provides reports to the police, the court, or the probation officer. The device tracks every movement of the wearer and can also detect if it has been tampered with, removed, or damaged.

How Long Can House Arrest Last?

House arrest that is used as a method of pretrial confinement will only last until the conclusion of the trial. Following the trial, a house arrest sentence might last anywhere from two weeks to twelve months, depending on what crime the offender was convicted of at trial.

Sometimes house arrest is used at the end of an offender’s sentence. They might be let out of jail or prison before their sentence is over and be allowed to serve the remainder under house arrest or electronic monitoring.

What are Some Advantages of House Arrest?

House arrest allows offenders to be monitored while still participating in their community and family. They are able to continue working or going to school, which may lead to the arrestee being less likely to engage in further criminal behavior.

Alternative sentences like house arrest are a way of diverting non-violent, first time offenders away from jails and prisons. That leaves more room in those facilities for more violent, repeat offenders who would not be candidates for house arrest.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney if I Violated House Arrest?

The penalties for violating house arrest can be severe and have long lasting consequences. An experienced criminal defense attorney can represent you in court if you have violated the terms of your house arrest agreement and are facing additional consequences.

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