Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

If you’re facing criminal charges, you need to be aware of all the possible penalties. For most charges, judges are given sentencing options that can include alternatives to jail. However, it can require a skilled criminal defense attorney to argue on your behalf for reduced or alternative sentencing. 

If you’ve recently been arrested for a crime and want to know more about your options for alternatives to incarceration, call me today. After spending years working as a prosecutor, I’ve now focused my practice at Melanson Law Office P.C. on criminal defense and can use this experience to help you. I proudly serve clients throughout the Hudson Valley from my office in Kingston, New York, including Hudson, Catskill, Highland, Poughkeepsie, Saugerties, and New Paltz.

Alternative Sentencing

The term “alternative sentencing” refers to criminal penalties other than prison or jail. These alternatives to jail offer a number of benefits not only to the person convicted of a crime but also to the state and the taxpayers. For those convicted, it can reduce the negative impacts of jail, make it easier to reintegrate into society, and can address underlying conditions such as drug addiction or mental health. And, because many alternative sentences allow people to stay in their community, they don’t lose the support of family and friends. 

Alternative sentencing also imposes a lower cost on the community because it’s been shown to lead to a lower rate of recidivism and the programs themselves usually cost less than housing someone in jail.

Diversion

There are a number of different diversion programs available depending on your specific circumstances. In these programs, criminal charges are dropped in exchange for attending and completing a diversion program, typically a rehabilitation or treatment program. Diversion is usually reserved for those charged with a misdemeanor, a non-violent felony, or without prior convictions in the last ten years. Either the defense or the prosecution may recommend diversion if you qualify, and it’s common your case won’t ever go to trial.

House Arrest

Another common type of alternative sentencing is house arrest, also called a location monitoring program (LMP). With this penalty, your movements will be electronically monitored, and you’ll be subject to certain restrictions like a curfew or having to remain at home either during specific time periods. In some cases, you may be permitted to leave home for a job or medical appointments. Like diversion programs, house arrest is usually offered to non-violent offenders, juveniles, those without prior convictions, or those for whom prison wouldn’t be safe (such as someone with a long-term illness or disability).

Community Service

Community service is usually assigned in conjunction with another penalty and can be used in lieu of having to pay fines or restitution or to lower or eliminate jail time. The goal of these programs is to provide a service to the community, reduce the prison population, and impose penalties that help reduce recidivism. In some cases, the community service will be connected to the crime you were charged with. For example, if you were charged with property damage or vandalism, you may be required to clean up the area you vandalized. This is usually available only to non-violent offenders and those with a relatively clean criminal record. 

Probation

One last option for alternative sentencing is probation which is commonly used with suspended sentences. This means that your probation is contingent on completing a separate program such as drug treatment, and if you’re successful, you won’t have to go to jail. During your probation period, you’ll have to follow a number of guidelines such as obeying all laws, regularly meeting with your probation officer, paying fees, abstaining from travel or seeing certain people, or submitting to drug testing. Probation can be offered to those charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, but a felony probation will be longer, typically five years compared with three.

Let Melanson Law Office P.C. Help

There are several alternatives to jail that could be available to you, and they are all worth pursuing. In many cases, these options can offer programs to learn new skills or treat underlying conditions and even avoid having a criminal conviction show up on your record. If you’re in the Kingston, New York, area and have further questions about this or any aspect of your criminal charge, give me a call today at Melanson Law Office P.C.


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