House arrest is a type of alternative sentence in criminal cases whereby you get confined to your residence under certain terms and conditions as an alternative to jail time.
House arrest programs are sometimes referred to as
- home confinement,
- home detention,
- electronic monitoring (through an ankle monitor), or
- supervised electronic confinement (SEC).
Common terms of house arrest include:
- submitting to random searches, and/or
- submitting to drug and alcohol tests.
You are typically ineligible for house arrest if you:
ALTERNATIVE SENTENCING IN CALIFORNIA
|Confinement to your home with case-by-case exceptions
|Unpaid labor for public good
|Leaving jail during working hours for a job
|Probation officer and electronic monitoring
|Assigned community service supervisor
|Restricting your movement while freeing up jail space
|Paying debt to society
|Being able to maintain a job while serving your sentence
|Usually low-level, non-violent offenders
|Usually low-level, non-violent offenders
|Within 120 days of your release date, and you have no PC 6263 exclusions
Our California criminal defense attorneys will discuss the following in this article:
- 1. What is house arrest like in California?
- 2. How do I qualify?
- 3. Can you have visitors if I am on home confinement?
- 4. Does house arrest count as time served?
- 5. What happens if I violate the terms of house arrest?
- Additional resources
1. What is house arrest like in California?
House arrest is a sentencing option in California where a judge confines you to your home for a period of time under certain terms and conditions.
The sentence is an alternative sentence to a traditional jail sentence or time in county jail or state prison. Or if you are awaiting trial, the judge can permit you to remain on house arrest on a pretrial basis pending the verdict.
What are the rules?
When a judge imposes home confinement, you usually have to abide by certain home confinement rules. Examples include:
- random drug testing,
- movement tracking ankle bracelets (which need to be charged 1-to-2 hours daily, restricting your mobility),
- alcohol monitoring via a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) device,
- drug use monitoring via a drug patch,
- community service, and/or
- in-office face-to-face meetings or home visits with your probation officer or parole officer.
During home confinement, you are typically monitored via an electronic monitoring program. These programs usually require you to wear an electronic monitoring device, which is most often an anklet.
When can I leave my home?
Depending on your alleged crime, a judge may allow you to leave your home for certain purposes during the duration of your home confinement sentence For example, a judge may allow you to leave your home in order to:
- work a job so you can maintain employment and earn money for your family,
- attend school,
- attend religious services,
- travel to medical appointments,
- attend and participate in counseling appointments, AA or alcohol classes (for example, after a conviction for DUI),
- tend to family obligations,
- go to mandatory court appearances, and
- participate in any other court-approved activities in your particular case (such as checking your mail, getting groceries, walking your dog, etc.).1
Do I have to pay?
You are generally responsible for paying any costs that are associated with a house arrest sentence. However, you will not be excluded from participating in home detention based exclusively on your inability to pay.2
2. How do I qualify?
You usually qualify for house arrest if you:
- are sentenced to county jail (as opposed to a state prison sentence),
- are a low-risk, nonviolent offender,
- have a home in or near the county/jurisdiction where you are sentenced,
- have a home telephone or cellular phone, and
- agree to adhere to all the rules of supervised electronic confinement.
House arrest can also be granted if you have a medical impairment or disability that would make it unfeasible for you to be incarcerated.
What makes me ineligible?
- a serious crime (such as rape),
- a violent crime (such as murder), or
- multiple crimes.
Most requests for house arrest get denied. Your attorney has to know how to convince the prosecutor and judge that you are eligible and will not threaten public safety.3
3. Can I have visitors if I am on home confinement?
If you are on house arrest, family and friends can visit you.
However, this typically must be stated within, and be provided by, the terms and conditions governing your house arrest sentence.
You run the risk of violating your home confinement term if you are visited by a person and that visit is prohibited by the conditions of your confinement.
4. Does house arrest count as time served?
House arrest does not count as time served under California law.
Further, if you are subject to home confinement, you must serve the entire length of the sentence. Unlike in jail, you cannot earn “good time credit” on house arrest.
Furthermore, you are not eligible for a reduced sentence and early release date for good behavior while under home confinement.
5. What happens if I violate the terms of house arrest?
When the monitoring agency/service gets an alert that you have violated the terms and conditions of your house arrest, it notifies your probation or parole officer.
Under California’s probation laws, the probation or parole officer can then arrest you – even without relying on a California arrest warrant.
What happens at the probation revocation hearing?
After an arrest, you will appear before a judge at a probation violation hearing. The judge at this hearing has the discretion to:
- ignore the violation,
- impose stricter terms and conditions of your home detention, or
- revoke house arrest and sentence you to jail or prison to serve the rest of your sentence.
If you are on house arrest on parole, and you violate a condition of your sentence, then the violation can trigger a parole revocation. Depending on the circumstances, if the state revokes parole, you will most likely return to custody.4
For more in-depth information, refer to these scholarly articles:
- Home as Prison: The Use of House Arrest – Federal Probation.
- Between the ‘Home’ and ‘Institutional’ Worlds: Tensions and Contradictions in the Practice of House Arrest – Critical Criminology.
- House Arrest: A Critical Analysis of an Intermediate-Level Penal Sanction – University of Pennsylvania Law Review.
- A Brief History of House Arrest and Electronic Monitoring – Northern Kentucky Law Review.
- Exploring the Option of House Arrest – Federal Probation.
- California Penal Code 1203.016. See also California Penal Code 2900.5(f) (“If a defendant serves time in a camp, work furlough facility, halfway house, rehabilitation facility, hospital, juvenile detention facility, similar residential facility, or home detention program pursuant to Section 1203.016, 1203.017, or 1203.018, in lieu of imprisonment in a county jail, the time spent in these facilities or programs shall qualify as mandatory time in jail.”). See, for example, In re Gunkel, (2021) CO 30. See, for example, People v. Perkell (1998) 969 P.2d 703.
- California Penal Code 1203.016(g).
- Home confinement is not available for infractions, which carry no jail time anyway.
- California Penal Code 3057.