Avoiding jail is often a priority for people who have been accused of a crime. Here are 5 common alternatives to jail in Colorado. Each of them can be an attractive option if you get convicted.
1. Suspended sentence
A suspended sentence is a jail term that the judge puts on delay. You will only have to serve a suspended sentence if you violate probation or commit another crime.
Of course, suspended sentences make a subsequent conviction even worse. If you commit another crime, you would have to serve jail time for both offenses.
Suspended sentences are usually the best alternatives to jail time. People who found themselves on the wrong side of the law and have no intention to commit another crime often seek suspended sentences. Judges often issue them to nonviolent offenders who are unlikely to commit another crime. The thought is that these defendants would not fare well in jail and do not need that kind of punishment.
2. House arrest
House arrest confines the defendant in their home, rather than in jail. It is also known as home detention.
In most cases, courts make sure you stay in your house by using an electronic bracelet. The bracelet has a GPS device that probation officers can use to track your movements. Some bracelets can also monitor you for drugs or alcohol. If they do not, the terms of your house arrest often allow for random testing.
Many house arrests include provisions that allow you to go to work during your sentence. You can also leave for court dates and pre-approved appointments.
3. Work release
Work release is similar to a house arrest, except you stay in jail or in a supervised community while you are not at work.
While work release might not seem like much of a better alternative than jail, the long-term benefits are significant. One of the most difficult aspects of being released from jail is finding a job. Being on work release allows you to continue working in your old position. This allows you to keep making an income during your jail sentence.
4. Diversion programs
Diversion programs are designed to divert certain defendants out of the prison system. The details of each diversion program are unique. However, most of them require you to plead guilty. Your sentence is then suspended while you complete the diversion program. If you complete the program, your conviction is dropped. If you fail to finish the program, though, you are re-sentenced.
Diversion programs are risky because you give up your right to defend against a charge to be eligible. You can also go to jail, anyway, if you fail the diversion program's requirements in any way, no matter how small.
5. Day reporting
Another alternative to a jail sentence is day reporting.
Day reporting is similar to probation, except you have to meet your probation officer every day. You can also be tested for drugs or alcohol at any time. You often have to consent to surprise searches of your house and car.
Day reporting also has numerous other requirements. These often depend on your conviction. However, many day reporting setups require you to be employed and keep a strict schedule.
The benefits of a jail alternative for a criminal conviction
If you have been convicted of a crime, there are some very clear benefits of an alternative sentence. They often include:
- Seeing your family,
- Living a life that is less structured than a jailhouse schedule,
- Not having to deal with other inmates every day, and
- Spending time in the comforts of your own home.
However, there are also some less apparent benefits to serving an alternative to a jail sentence:
- You can keep your job,
- You can continue making an income during your sentence, and
- It allows you to continue interacting with people you care about.
Why courts use jail alternatives so often
Jail alternatives sound like they only benefit defendants. Some people who have been accused of a crime wonder why courts would issue them, at all. However, jail alternatives have become popular sentences because:
- It keeps nonviolent offenders out of prison,
- It reduces the prison population,
- Keeping the prison population low saves money for the government, and
- People are realizing that jail is an excessive punishment for most people.
These interests make it worthwhile to pursue a jail alternative if you have been convicted of a crime. Judges might grant it. You are especially likely to receive an alternative to a jail sentence if you:
- Have a job,
- Have a family, especially children,
- Have never committed a crime before,
- Did not commit a violent crime, and
- Made it clear during the sentencing hearing that you regretted your actions.