In recent years, courts around the country have been offering an increasing number of alternatives to incarceration including home arrest and electronic surveillance options. For a long time, San Diego County was hesitant to take advantage of these options in all but the most unusual cases, but as local jails became overwhelmingly overcrowded, judges and prosecutors became more open to solutions to keep low-risk offenders out of jail. If you’ve been accused of a crime, a San Diego alternative sentencing attorney may be able to help you participate in such a program so you don’t have to stay behind bars.
Securing an Alternative Sentence in San Diego County
An alternative sentence is anything that lets you serve out your sentence outside of jail. These options are offered for a number of reasons, but the two biggest are to prevent overcrowding in jails and to encourage rehabilitation rather than punishments. Because judges and prosecutors hope these programs will keep people from reoffending, they are offered more frequently to first-time offenders, though eligibility will vary from program to program.
Judges have a lot of alternatives when deciding on the right sentence for an offender and will carefully evaluate the benefit to the suspect and society as well as the impact on the victim and the overall facts of the case before issuing a final sentence. Some judges are more open to alternative sentences than others and a good criminal defense attorney can sometimes play a critical role in helping to ensure you are given an alternative to incarceration.
The best way for a defendant to get a sentence with an alternative to incarceration is to get counseling and treatment immediately so the judge sees they are serious about fixing their problems. Judges and most prosecutors are more sympathetic to defendants who take initiative and get help without being court ordered to do so, especially on low level cases, .
Alternative Sentence Programs in San Diego
Because there are so many alternatives to incarceration out there, it’s worth knowing what the options are, though you should keep in mind that not all options are available to all offenders. It’s also worth mentioning that judges may choose any combination of these alternative sentences and may even sentence someone to a short term behind bars and then longer periods of alternative sentencing.
While most people assume those who wear ankle monitors are on house arrest, there are actually two different types of ankle monitors available, those that track the GPS coordinates and those that test for alcohol consumption by screening the sweat of the person wearing them.
While those sentenced to wear a GPS-tracker are commonly referred to as being on “house arrest,” many offenders are still allowed to leave their home to go to work, school and other routine activities. While this is a preferable solution to incarceration, there are a lot of problems with GPS monitoring and many people need their attorney to help them show they did not violate their probation or parole terms.
Perhaps the best known alternative to incarceration, community service involves doing activities that will benefit the greater community, such as trash or vandalism removal, or volunteer work at a non-profit agency. It is worth mentioning that offenders do not get to choose the type of community service work they perform, though those with disabilities preventing them from performing certain tasks will usually be given some form of volunteer work they can perform safely.
Community service is offered as a sentencing option for many misdemeanors, including shoplifting, vandalism and assault, and some misdemeanors, such as drunk driving, even require offenders to perform community service as part of their sentence.
A diversion program is a pre-trial agreement that allows certain offenders to avoid incarceration and having a criminal charge added to their record in exchange for meeting certain requirements, such as attending drug counseling, community service or going through outreach programs.There are two types of diversion programs: A true diversion is deferred entry of judgement where a person does not plead guilty but if he or she successfully meets the terms of the diversion program, the charge is dismissed without a guilty plea. The second type is when a person pleads guilty but the sentencing hearing is continued so the person can complete required programs. If the person completes the requirements, the charges are dismissed at the sentencing hearing.
Only some defendants will qualify for a diversion program, so if you are interested in such an option, be sure to ask your attorney if you may be eligible.
Probation is a sentence that will allow a defendant to return to his regular life, but with a number of restrictions. There are two types of probation, formal and summary. Summary probation is used in misdemeanor cases and is much less restrictive than formal probation, which is used in felony cases.
A suspended sentence is when a judge does not issue a sentence or issues a sentence that will not be instituted immediately. These are often conditional and used alongside probation sentences or some diversion programs, so if the defendant doesn’t fulfill all the terms of her agreement, she will be subjected to the suspended sentence.
While the name “work furlough” can sound intimidating, reminiscent of the chain gangs of olden times, many people prefer this option because it allows you to live outside of a cell and to be able to see your family more frequently. In a work furlough program, you will spend your days working at your job and your nights living in a dormitory-style facility with other inmates assigned to the program.
It is important to note that not everyone will qualify for a work furlough program, particularly those who have been convicted of a serious or violent felony. The program is most often offered to those who have been convicted for drug crimes, but it can also be an option for those convicted of repeat DUI charges, domestic violence or other less-serious felony and misdemeanor crimes.
If you aren’t sure if you’ll qualify for a particular alternative to incarceration, your alternative sentencing lawyer may be able to answer your questions about these programs.
If you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges and want to discuss alternative sentencing, should you be convicted, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.