COVID-19 UPDATE: Inmates may be able to serve their sentences on house arrest due to coronavirus. The inmate’s criminal defense attorney can file a motion to modify the sentence to ask the judge for early release or home confinement.
House arrest is a type of alternative sentencing that allows Nevada defendants awaiting trial or convicted of a crime to live at home instead of jail or prison. Defendants on house arrest typically have to wear electronic monitoring anklets, submit to random alcohol and drug testing, and give up their passports and firearms. Violating house arrest terms will result in the defendant being remanded to jail or prison.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is house arrest?
- 2. How does house arrest work in Nevada?
- 3. What qualifies you for house arrest?
- 4. What happens when defendants violate the terms of their house arrest?
- 5. How much does it cost for house arrest?
- 6. Can you have a cell phone on house arrest?
- 7. Can you drink on house arrest?
1. What is house arrest?
House arrest (or “home confinement”) is a type of alternative sentencing in Nevada. Like it sounds, house arrest is when a Nevada court allows a defendant to forgo jail by instead staying home for a certain period of time under electronic monitoring.
Defendants serving house arrest must comply with any other requirements the judge may order. Typical rules include:
- appearing regularly for court,
- frequent drug testing,
- submission to searches at any time by law enforcement, and
- relinquishing firearms and passports.
A judge may impose house arrest at one of two points during a criminal case:
- After the defendant is arrested and is awaiting trial. The typical scenario is that the defendant can pay the required bail, but the criminal charges are too serious for him/her to have freedom of travel.
- When the defendant is convicted and the judge imposes a sentence. In some cases, judges grant defendants house arrest instead of – or in addition to – prison. These defendants are usually entered into the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s Intensive Supervision Program, which monitors them for the duration of the house arrest.
The Nevada Department of Public Safety offers four programs that allow certain offenders to serve all or some of their sentence through home confinement:
- 305 Program for DUI offenders
- 317 Program for non-violent offenders
- 184 Program for Drug Court participants
- 298 Program for ill or disabled offenders (“compassionate release”)1
2. How does house arrest work in Nevada?
Judges order different terms and conditions depending on the circumstances of the individual case. In many cases, defendants must wear an electric monitoring device on their ankle that tracks their real-time location. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department uses a GPS-based electronic surveillance system called Omnilink.
But defendants under house arrest are often allowed to:
- go to work or school,
- show up to doctor’s appointments or drug testing,
- go to counseling, community service, or alcohol & drug counseling,
- tend to familial obligations, or
- go to court appearances, lawyer appointments, and any other activities approved by the court
However, a defendant under house arrest may go only to and from the court-approved locations and nowhere else. They cannot even stop somewhere that is on the way.
Law enforcement receives an alert if the defendant ever tampers with the anklet, breaks curfew or goes near prohibited areas (called “exclusion zones” such as a victim’s home). The defendant may then lose house arrest privileges and be sent to jail or Nevada State Prison instead.2
3. What qualifies you for house arrest?
It depends on the case and the underlying charges or convictions. Obviously, judges favor defendants who are cooperative, are non-violent, have minimal criminal histories, and are not a flight risk.
The defendant’s attorney usually has to request house arrest and then convince the judge that the defendant deserves it and will abide by the rules. Sometimes a parole board recommends a defendant for house arrest.
4. What happens when defendants violate the terms of their house arrest?
When a defendant’s electronic monitoring bracelet detects a possible house arrest violation, it sends a signal to law enforcement. The defendant may be arrested again, booked at the Clark County Detention Center, and brought back to court to face questioning about the incident.
If the equipment merely malfunctioned or the defendant had an innocent accident, the judge might not impose any punishment. But a willful violation of the rules may result in the judge remanding the defendant to jail or prison.
5. How much does it cost for house arrest?
In Las Vegas, house arrest costs $12 a day, plus a one-time $100 administrative fee.3
6. Can you have a cell phone on house arrest?
It depends on the case. It is not unusual for judges to restrict defendants on house arrest from accessing a phone or the internet.
7. Can you drink on house arrest?
In many cases, defendants on house arrest – especially DUI defendants – are ordered to abstain from alcohol. Some people are required to wear a SCRAM device, which stands for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor.
SCRAM devices continually measure the person’s alcohol concentration through the skin (called “transdermal monitoring”). If the SCRAM detects alcohol, it will notify law enforcement.
- Nevada Revised Statute 209.429; NRS 209.392; Nev. Rev. Stat. 209.3925; NRS 176A.440. Nevada Department of Corrections Administrative Regulation 523. See also Blandino v. Lombardo, (2021) 483 P.3d 542. See also Long Ngoc Tu v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court of Nev. (2019) 453 P.3d 399.
- Municipal Court Recourses, House Arrest, Las Vegas Municipal Court.