House arrest involves being confined to your primary residence rather than going to jail, prison, or juvenile detention. It's often used as a condition of bail, probation, or parole. House arrest—also called home detention or confinement—comes with advantages and disadvantages.
This article will review the basics of house arrest, including eligibility, conditions, costs, and violations.
House arrest requires an accused or convicted defendant to remain at home under electronic monitoring as a condition of release or alternative to incarceration. Rather than being locked up, house arrest allows offenders to earn income, maintain family and other relationships, and attend necessary probation appointments and rehabilitation treatment. At the same time, it gives judges, probation officers, and parole boards another tool in their toolbox to:
Home confinement usually comes with curfews and strict conditions of when a defendant can leave home. It's not considered to be a way to "let an offender off easy." House arrest is intended to be confining, and is a legitimate form of monitoring or punishment.
In many house arrest cases, the defendant wears an ankle bracelet (or electronic tether) to monitor their movements. This electronic monitoring device is often maintained and monitored by a third-party provider, who can detect whether the defendant has unlawfully tried to leave the property or remove the device itself.
House arrest doesn't necessarily confine the offenders to their homes for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In some cases, offenders may be permitted to go to work and school, attend religious services, and go to medical appointments or court-ordered treatment. Home confinement can be more restraining, of course, depending on the specifics of the confinement and the infraction. Often, house arrest will come with additional conditions. Depending on the case, conditions might include curfews, travel restrictions, no-contact orders, or alcohol or drug testing.
The defendant is often responsible for the expenses associated with the electronic monitoring device. Having a defendant on home imprisonment pay for the cost of monitoring is particularly attractive to cash-strapped states and court systems. At the same time, daily monitoring fees rack up quickly and can become a stressful or unmanageable form of debt for low-income defendants.
Not all jurisdictions have the option of house arrest due to its costs and the equipment and personnel needed to run the program. State laws may also restrict who's eligible for house arrest. For example, the law might prohibit house arrest as an option for someone who's committed domestic violence or a violent felony.
Common eligibility factors for consideration of house arrest include the following.
How to go about requesting house arrest will depend on the circumstances and stage of your case. Your attorney can help you evaluate if it's a viable and good option for you and make arguments on your behalf.
Pretrial; condition of bail. If you're charged with a crime and awaiting trial, your attorney may argue for house arrest as a condition of pretrial release with or without bail. Generally, pretrial release is an option if you're not a danger to the community and not a flight risk.
Alternative sentence or probation. For those who are contemplating a plea deal, your attorney might suggest house arrest to the prosecutor in negotiations. If you're awaiting sentencing, your attorney can ask the judge to order house arrest as a sentencing alternative to incarceration or as a condition of probation.
Condition of parole. Prison inmates may be able to request house arrest as a condition of parole or supervised release. In some states and for certain crimes, house arrest might be required.
A person can violate house arrest in several ways. The most obvious is by leaving the home during restricted times. It's also a violation to tamper with or try to remove the ankle bracelet. Even letting the batteries go dead can be a violation. The consequences of a violation will depend on the circumstances of the violation and if house arrest is a condition of pretrial release or incarceration.
Another crime. A violation can be a separate crime resulting in additional charges, such as tampering with an ankle monitor, escape from custody, failure to appear in court, or violating a no-contact order.
Revoke bail. For those out on bail, a violation will generally result in an immediate arrest and being hauled back into court. The judge will likely revoke bail and you'll await trial in jail.
Probation or parole violation. If your probation is conditioned on complying with house arrest, a violation can result in revocation of probation or modification in probation terms. Revocation often means you'll serve the suspended prison sentence. Similarly, for a parole violation, you can be sent back to prison to serve out the remainder of the sentence.
Ask your criminal defense lawyer or public defender if house arrest is an option and whether it's a good option for you. Your lawyer may be able to help you make a convincing argument to the judge, prosecutor, or parole board about why house arrest is appropriate in your case.