"House Arrest" & "Home Confinement" as a Jail Alternatives in California

a house locked with a chain going around it
House arrest...sometimes referred to as home confinement, home detention, or electronic monitoring...is a type of alternative sentencing.

House arrest...sometimes referred to as home confinement, home detention, or electronic monitoring...is a type of alternative sentencing.  "Alternative sentencing" provides a convicted defendant with alternatives to a jail or prison sentence.

And as a law firm of experienced, savvy California criminal defense attorneys,1 we know how to present the most compelling arguments to allow you to serve your sentence under house arrest / home confinement rather than in jail or prison.

What is House Arrest?

Although house arrest can exclusively confine you to your residence, that isn't always the case (and, in fact, it seldom is).  When the judge places you on home confinement or detention, he/she orders you to abide by specific terms and conditions that restrict your freedom and mobility.  After all, home confinement is still punishment...it's simply more desirable than traditional incarceration.

These terms and conditions may include

  • curfew restrictions,
  • random drug testing, and/or
  • in-office face-to-face meetings or home visits with your probation or parole officer.

And...depending on the severity of your offense and your criminal record...the judge may even allow you to

  • work or attend school,
  • travel to medical appointments,
  • attend and participate in counseling appointments, alcohol / drug classes, community service, etc.,
  • tend to family obligations, and
  • participate in any other court-approved activities,

provided that you only travel to/from court-approved appointments/locations and are in your home when you are otherwise required to be there.2

And as Orange County criminal defense attorney John Murray3 explains, "The judge just doesn't offer house arrest.  Home confinement...and, for that matter, any type of alternative sentencing...is a privilege which must be requested by a skilled criminal defense lawyer.  And...in all honesty...most requests get denied.  The attorney has to know how to convince the prosecutor and judge that his/her client is deserving of such an opportunity and that he/she will benefit from its imposition."

It is important to understand that as the offender, you are generally responsible for paying any costs that are associated with regulating your house arrest sentence (although you will not be excluded from participating in home detention or confinement based exclusively on an inability to pay).4

ball and chain, with the ball representing the house
House arrest is monitored via electronic monitoring.

How Do the Courts Monitor Home Confinement?

House arrest is monitored via electronic monitoring.   Electronic monitoring is administered in a number of ways, depending on the county in which you live.  Some typical examples include (but are not limited to):

Basic electronic transmission - Here, you will be fitted with an ankle transmitter and a home monitoring unit.  The bracelet sends a 24-hour signal to the monitoring agency and accounts for any irregularities.  "Irregularities" include tampering with the instrument, violating your curfew, or traveling outside your authorized radius.  This type of system can be set up as long as you have a power outlet and access to a standard phone line or cellular service.

Global Positioning System (GPS) - GPS is the most advanced of the home detention devices.  It uses commercial cellular networks to transmit data 24-hours a day to the monitoring agency.  GPS tracking allows the supervising agency to create specific inclusion and exclusion zones, mapping, and tracking.  The agency knows your exact whereabouts at all times.

Many courthouses throughout California utilize this technology including (but not limited to) courts in:

  • Alameda,
  • Contra Costa County,
  • San Diego,
  • Victorville,
  • Downey, and
  • Pomona.

The Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM) device - Judges only order the SCRAM device for the defendant who has been convicted of alcohol-related offenses (or who the judge believes may have an issue with alcohol).   This alcohol bracelet continuously monitors alcohol concentration, not your whereabouts.

Los Angeles County is beginning to use these devices more and more...especially in driving under the influence cases where the defendant has prior D.U.I. convictions.

Drug patches - Drug patches are sometimes used to monitor those convicted of California drug offenses.  These patches are removed and replaced weekly.  Once removed, they are tested for traces of

  • marijuana,
  • heroin,
  • PCP,
  • cocaine, and
  • methamphetamines.

Santa Clara County is one of the counties that routinely use the drug patch.

And although we have discussed all of these monitoring systems in the context of alternative sentencing, they are also used to monitor and supervise individuals who are placed on parole following their release from the California state prison.

Violating the Terms of Your Home Detention

When the monitoring agency receives an alert that you have violated the exact terms and conditions that were imposed in connection with your house arrest, it notifies your probation or parole officer.  And California probation laws allow your probation or parole officer to arrest you without relying on a California arrest warrant.5

If...following a probation violation hearing...the judge believes that you have violated the terms of your home detention, he/she may revoke your house arrest and order you to serve the remainder of your sentence in jail or prison.6

This is simply another reason why having an experienced California criminal defense attorney is critical.  This type of lawyer knows the most persuasive arguments to convince a judge to allow you another opportunity to comply with home confinement before he/she imposes incarceration.

Call us for help...
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Call us for help...

If you or loved one is in need of help with a house arrest and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

For information about house arrest in Nevada, go to our article on House arrest in Nevada.

Legal References:

1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Penal Code 1203.016 -- Home detention; electronic monitoring or supervising devices; conditions.  ("(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the board of supervisors of any county may authorize the correctional administrator, as defined in subdivision (h), to offer a program under which minimum security inmates and low-risk offenders committed to a county jail or other county correctional facility or granted probation, or inmates participating in a work furlough program, may voluntarily participate in a home detention program during their sentence in lieu of confinement in the county jail or other county correctional facility or program under the auspices of the probation officer. (b) The board of supervisors may prescribe reasonable rules and regulations under which a home detention program may operate. As a condition of participation in the home detention program, the inmate shall give his or her consent in writing to participate in the home detention program and shall in writing agree to comply with the rules and regulations of the program, including, but not limited to, the following rules: (1) The participant shall remain within the interior premises of his or her residence during the hours designated by the correctional administrator. (2) The participant shall admit any person or agent designated by the correctional administrator into his or her residence at any time for purposes of verifying the participant's compliance with the conditions of his or her detention. (3) The participant shall agree to the use of electronic monitoring, which may include global positioning system devices or other supervising devices for the purpose of helping to verify his or her compliance with the rules and regulations of the home detention program. The devices shall not be used to eavesdrop or record any conversation, except a conversation between the participant and the person supervising the participant which is to be used solely for the purposes of voice identification. (4) The participant shall agree that the correctional administrator in charge of the county correctional facility from which the participant was released may, without further order of the court, immediately retake the person into custody to serve the balance of his or her sentence if the electronic monitoring or supervising devices are unable for any reason to properly perform their function at the designated place of home detention, if the person fails to remain within the place of home detention as stipulated in the agreement, if the person willfully fails to pay fees to the provider of electronic home detention services, as stipulated in the agreement, subsequent to the written notification of the participant that the payment has not been received and that return to custody may result, or if the person for any other reason no longer meets the established criteria under this section. A copy of the agreement shall be delivered to the participant and a copy retained by the correctional administrator. (c) Whenever the peace officer supervising a participant has reasonable cause to believe that the participant is not complying with the rules or conditions of the program, or that the electronic monitoring devices are unable to function properly in the designated place of confinement, the peace officer may, under general or specific authorization of the correctional administrator, and without a warrant of arrest, retake the person into custody to complete the remainder of the original sentence. (d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the correctional administrator to allow a person to participate in this program if it appears from the record that the person has not satisfactorily complied with reasonable rules and regulations while in custody. A person shall be eligible for participation in a home detention program only if the correctional administrator concludes that the person meets the criteria for release established under this section and that the person's participation is consistent with any reasonable rules and regulations prescribed by the board of supervisors or the administrative policy of the correctional administrator. (1) The rules and regulations and administrative policy of the program shall be written and reviewed on an annual basis by the county board of supervisors and the correctional administrator. The rules and regulations shall be given to or made available to any participant upon request. (2) The correctional administrator, or his or her designee, shall have the sole discretionary authority to permit program participation as an alternative to physical custody. All persons referred or recommended by the court to participate in the home detention program pursuant to subdivision (e) who are denied participation or all persons removed from program participation shall be notified in writing of the specific reasons for the denial or removal. The notice of denial or removal shall include the participant's appeal rights, as established by program administrative policy. (e) The court may recommend or refer a person to the correctional administrator for consideration for placement in the home detention program. The recommendation or referral of the court shall be given great weight in the determination of acceptance or denial. At the time of sentencing or at any time that the court deems it necessary, the court may restrict or deny the defendant's participation in a home detention program. (f) The correctional administrator may permit home detention program participants to seek and retain employment in the community, attend psychological counseling sessions or educational or vocational training classes, or seek medical and dental assistance. Willful failure of the program participant to return to the place of home detention not later than the expiration of any period of time during which he or she is authorized to be away from the place of home detention pursuant to this section and unauthorized departures from the place of home detention are punishable as provided in Section 4532. (g) The board of supervisors may prescribe a program administrative fee to be paid by each home detention participant that shall be determined according to his or her ability to pay. Inability to pay all or a portion of the program fees shall not preclude participation in the program, and eligibility shall not be enhanced by reason of ability to pay. All program administration and supervision fees shall be administered in compliance with Section 1208.2. (h) As used in this section, the following words have the following meanings: (1) "Correctional administrator" means the sheriff, probation officer, or director of the county department of corrections. (2) "Minimum security inmate" means an inmate who, by established local classification criteria, would be eligible for placement in a Type IV local detention facility, as described in Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations, or for placement into the community for work or school activities, or who is determined to be a minimum security risk under a classification plan developed pursuant to Section 1050 of Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations. (3) "Low-risk offender" means a probationer, as defined by the National Institute of Corrections model probation system. (i) Notwithstanding any other law, the police department of a city where an office is located to which persons on an electronic monitoring program report may require the county correctional administrator to provide information concerning those persons. This information shall be limited to the name, address, date of birth, and offense committed by the home detainee. Any information received by a police department pursuant to this paragraph shall be used only for the purpose of monitoring the impact of home detention programs on the community. (j) It is the intent of the Legislature that home detention programs established under this section maintain the highest public confidence, credibility, and public safety. In the furtherance of these standards, the following shall apply: (1) The correctional administrator, with the approval of the board of supervisors, may administer a home detention program pursuant to written contracts with appropriate public or private agencies or entities to provide specified program services. No public or private agency or entity may operate a home detention program in any county without a written contract with that county's correctional administrator. However, this does not apply to the use of electronic monitoring by the California Department of Corrections or the Department of the Youth Authority as established in Section 3004. No public or private agency or entity entering into a contract may itself employ any person who is in the home detention program. (2) Program acceptance shall not circumvent the normal booking process for sentenced offenders. All home detention program participants shall be supervised. (3)(A) All privately operated home detention programs shall be under the jurisdiction of, and subject to the terms and conditions of the contract entered into with, the correctional administrator. (B) Each contract shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following: (i) A provision whereby the private agency or entity agrees to operate in compliance with any available standards promulgated by state correctional agencies and bodies, including the Board of Corrections, and all statutory provisions and mandates, state and county, as appropriate and applicable to the operation of home detention programs and the supervision of sentenced offenders in a home detention program. (ii) A provision that clearly defines areas of respective responsibility and liability of the county and the private agency or entity. (iii) A provision that requires the private agency or entity to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility, submitted and approved by the board of supervisors, in amounts and under conditions sufficient to fully indemnify the county for reasonably foreseeable public liability, including legal defense costs, that may arise from, or be proximately caused by, acts or omissions of the contractor. The contract shall provide for annual review by the correctional administrator to ensure compliance with requirements set by the board of supervisors and for adjustment of the financial responsibility requirements if warranted by caseload changes or other factors. (iv) A provision that requires the private agency or entity to provide evidence of financial responsibility, such as certificates of insurance or copies of insurance policies, prior to commencing any operations pursuant to the contract or at any time requested by the board of supervisors or correctional administrator. (v) A provision that permits the correctional administrator to immediately terminate the contract with a private agency or entity at any time that the contractor fails to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility. (C) All privately operated home detention programs shall comply with all appropriate, applicable ordinances and regulations specified in subdivision (a) of Section 1208. (D) The board of supervisors, the correctional administrator, and the designee of the correctional administrator shall comply with Section 1090 of the Government Code in the consideration, making, and execution of contracts pursuant to this section. (E) The failure of the private agency or entity to comply with statutory provisions and requirements or with the standards established by the contract and with the correctional administrator may be sufficient cause to terminate the contract. (F) Upon the discovery that a private agency or entity with whom there is a contract is not in compliance pursuant to this paragraph, the correctional administrator shall give 60 days' notice to the director of the private agency or entity that the contract may be canceled if the specified deficiencies are not corrected. (G) Shorter notice may be given or the contract may be canceled without notice whenever a serious threat to public safety is present because the private agency or entity has failed to comply with this section. (k) For purposes of this section, "evidence of financial responsibility" may include, but is not limited to, certified copies of any of the following: (1) A current liability insurance policy. (2) A current errors and omissions insurance policy. (3) A surety bond.")

3Orange County criminal defense attorney John Murray represents clients throughout Orange County, including Newport Beach, Fullerton, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Westminster.

4See California Penal Code 1203.016 subdivision "g", on home detention, endnote 2, above.

5See same, subsection "c", endnote 2, above.

6See same.


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