ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES TO GOING TO JAIL?
March 17, 2022
If you’re facing criminal charges, you’re likely feeling nervous about the penalties you may be facing. Perhaps the most frightening prospect is the possibility of jail time. However, in some cases, there may be alternatives to incarceration depending on your charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your choices and work on your behalf to potentially reduce or minimize your sentence.
At The Law Office of Gregory N. Smith, I focus my practice solely on criminal defense and am committed to offering personalized legal counsel. If you’re in the St. Louis, Missouri area, including St. Charles, St. Louis County, Jefferson County, or East St. Louis, call me today to set up a consultation.
Alternative sentencing covers a wide variety of punishments, and most of the time, your options will be determined by the judge overseeing your case or by the choices available in your county.
This might include drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs, DWI court, drug court, or mental health court. These options are generally reserved for low-level offenders, but the specifics of your case will determine whether alternative sentencing is an option. If you are eligible for alternative sentencing, you may not only avoid jail time, but your charges could also be dropped completely at the end of your program. This is an excellent opportunity to reduce the negative effects of a criminal charge.
A diversion program means your charges are diverted out of the criminal court system. These are usually rehabilitation or treatment programs, anger management programs, theft offender programs, or community service. To qualify, you typically need to have committed a non-violent, minor crime and be a first-time offender, but sometimes you may qualify even if you have convictions in your past.
With house arrest, a judge can elect that you serve your jail time at home instead of behind bars. Even though it’s called “house arrest,” there are usually predefined areas that you’re able to travel to that may include your workplace or to attend medical appointments. To monitor your movements, you’ll usually be required to wear an ankle bracelet that can alert authorities if you travel out of the house-arrest area. House arrest is typically reserved for first-time offenders who are in no danger of harming anyone else and have committed a non-violent crime.
Community service may be included in your penalties along with fines or probation. A judge will assign a set number of hours that you must work for your community. This could include roadside clean-up, working for a local nonprofit, or somehow addressing the crime you committed such as speaking at a local school. Community service is usually only an option for those charged with misdemeanor crimes or for a lesser felony crime like theft or property damage. Community service is also used widely with juvenile defendants.
Lastly, probation may be an option, though this is usually assigned in conjunction with community service and fines. With probation, your sentence will usually be deferred, and if at the end of this period, you haven’t committed any more crimes and you’ve obeyed all the rules of your probation, your charges may be dismissed or dropped to a lower offense. However, if you violate the terms of your probation (such as failing a drug test or failing to meet with your probation officer on a given day), you can be put in jail to fulfill your sentence.
How a Knowledgeable Attorney Can Help
While these alternatives to jail are available to many people, it can be hard to pursue these options without the help of a criminal defense attorney. You need someone with a comprehensive understanding of local and state laws who can argue on your behalf. If you’re concerned about your charges, call The Law Office of Gregory N. Smith in St. Louis, Missouri, today to start working through your options.