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Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

July 21, 2021

Attorney unlocking man's handcuffsIf you’re facing a charge that could result in either jail or prison time, you may be wondering what your options are. Will you inevitably find yourself behind bars? Or are there alternatives to being sent to prison?

In many cases, there are indeed alternatives to incarceration, starting with probation. If your offense falls under certain penal codes or programs, probation may be offered. You may even be afforded a sentencing alternative, including community service or home detention.

Unfortunately, probation and sentencing alternatives are not always guaranteed. To avail yourself of these options, you will need the help of an experienced California criminal defense attorney. If you live in the Los Angeles area, or in the nearby areas of Orange County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, San Bernardino County, or San Diego County, call me at the Alec Rose Law Office today for help.

You don’t want to take on the legal system on your own. With my experience on your side, you can exercise your full rights to potentially get your charges reduced or dropped altogether. Your future is literally at stake, and you don’t want to risk it with just any attorney. Call or reach out to my office today to schedule a free initial consultation.

What Is Alternative Sentencing?

The Los Angeles County District Attorney created the Alternative Sentencing Court (ASC) Designee program in 2014, which allows those charged with non-violent offenses to be tried in special courts. The entire goal of these courts is to rehabilitate offenders and keep people out of jail.

Other counties have similar programs, but beyond the institution of such dedicated court systems, alternative sentencing is available in just about any courtroom depending on the crime charged and the criminal history of the defendant.

California Penal Code 1000 and Proposition 36, passed in 2000, apply to drug charges and call for those convicted to be entered into drug diversion and treatment programs rather than serving time behind bars. Other codes and programs affect those facing charges for theft, domestic violence, and other misdemeanors — even felonies.

In general, alternative sentencing means the avoidance of jail or prison time through non-incarceration programs, detention arrangements, and/or probation.

Five Types of Alternative Sentences

As stated above, there are a number of different alternatives to a prison sentence. Most of these alternatives require either a plea bargain or a guilty plea, so the help of a seasoned defense attorney is essential if you want to be eligible for any of these options, which include:

Community Service

Community service involves the convicted offender performing unpaid work as an alternative to fines or incarceration. Judges have broad discretion in designating the type of work, but it must not only benefit the community but also be directly connected to the crime the defendant committed.

Home Detention

Also referred to as house arrest or electronic monitoring, this alternative enables the convicted offender to serve time in their place of residence, but with certain conditions attached. These conditions typically include curfew restrictions, random drug testing, monitoring the use of electronic devices, and visits with or from probation officers. During the detention period, the defendant can often attend school, go to work, travel to medical appointments, travel to family obligations, and receive counseling or rehabilitative services.

Drug Diversion

Once known as “deferred entry of judgment” (DEJ), this program enables eligible defendants to have their charges dismissed if they complete a treatment program, thus avoiding a criminal record. This is available under Penal Code 1000.

Proposition 36

Similar to Penal Code 1000, Prop 36 allows non-violent drug offenders to undergo a drug treatment program, but unlike PC 1000, the defendant must plead guilty and be placed on probation. Ultimately, the judge will decide whether to dismiss the charges and thus void a criminal record.


Probation can be offered for both misdemeanors and felonies, but the conditions of the probation and the level of supervision are both different. Misdemeanor probation is often supervised by a judge, while felony probation will be supervised by a probation officer.

When probation is offered, it is generally accompanied by a variety of conditions that must be met, including the payment of any fines, completing treatment programs, community service, substance abuse programs, and any random drug testing. The offender must also honor all court and probation hearing dates. Any violation of these conditions can result in harsher consequences or even jail time.

Who Is Not Eligible for
Sentencing Alternatives?

Alternative sentencing is not always an option for every person and every crime. Factors that can invalidate the option of alternative sentences include:

  • The commission of a serious or violent crime, such as sexual assault, robbery, or murder

  • A history of prior convictions

  • The use of a weapon when the crime was committed

  • The potential of the defendant to pose a risk to himself or others

Let the Alec Rose Law Office
Help You Avoid Jail Time

As you can see, alternatives definitely exist to avoid time behind bars, but you will need the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney who knows how to negotiate alternative sentencing options.

The sooner you seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, the better your odds will be of achieving the best possible outcome. As a seasoned criminal defense attorney, let me investigate the circumstances of your charge and work with you to develop a strategic legal defense that can help you explore all of your legal options.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, or in the nearby areas of Orange County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, San Bernardino County, or San Diego County, and you’re facing criminal charges, call me immediately at the Alec Rose Law Office for a free case consultation. For over 25 years I have been helping countless individuals in situations just like yours successfully pursue alternative sentencing options — and I’d be proud to help you too. Call or reach out to my office today for help.