"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 a 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. 

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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