Can You Work While on House Arrest?

Learn what it means to have work-release privileges while under house arrest.

By , Attorney · Santa Clara University School of Law
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 19, 2023

House arrest (also called home detention) involves being sentenced to time at home under close surveillance, rather than serving a typical jail sentence. Home detention is generally an option for non-violent offenders.

House Arrest and Work-Release Privileges

House arrest may come with work-release privileges. In fact, maintaining employment is considered one of the strongest advantages of house arrest over other forms of punishment. People who have regular, gainful employment may be permitted to go to work for particular hours every day as part of their court-ordered house arrest. But work release comes with rules—lots of them. Anyone who breaks those rules can be arrested and re-incarcerated.

Typical Rules for Working When Under House Arrest

Each jurisdiction has different rules for work-release options while under house arrest. But, generally, the offender's work and movements will be closely monitored. Working a job while under house arrest means you need to closely follow the rules to avoid big problems. Below are a few examples.

Getting Your Work Schedule and Route Approved

You'll need to submit a schedule to the court and the officer overseeing your case. In that schedule, you will need to explain how long it takes to get to and from work, what route you will take, and how many hours you are working on that job. In some instances, the number of hours a person is permitted to work may be limited. Particular jobs, job sites, or shifts may also be limited, depending on the nature of your offense and the terms of your house arrest.

Wearing an Ankle Bracelet or Monitor to Work

At the job, you'll need to wear your electronic monitoring device. Many offenders under house arrest are required to wear these devices, which are small enough to be hidden under clothing. The device will send signals about your whereabouts at all times, so if you venture off the pre-determined routes to and from work or attempt to leave work during a typical workday, expect to have problems with your probation officer and the judge.

Paying for Electronic Monitoring

Electronic monitoring isn't cheap and you are likely responsible for any costs associated with house arrest—which means maintaining your employment during house arrest is going to be important and necessary. In many cases, people sentenced to house arrest are responsible for paying the fees associated with the electronic monitoring devices which can range from a few dollars to $40 a day. In addition, they must pay the costs of the initial monitoring setup, plus the regular court fees, fines, and restitution.

Can I Change Jobs While Under House Arrest?

You'll need to carefully review your probation and supervision terms to see if you can change jobs while under house arrest. Most likely, you'll need permission from your probation officer and, perhaps, the court. You likely need permission just to change your schedule, pick up a different shift, or apply for a different job.

Anything that changes your schedule, route, location, duties, or supervisor generally needs approval. Working in another city or county could make supervision more onerous, in which case, your probation officer would likely decline the request.

Do I Have to Tell My Employer About House Arrest?

Again, it's a good idea to check the terms of your house arrest. Some jurisdictions require individuals under house arrest to inform their employer about their supervision status. Others don't, but it's something to consider because supervision terms are strictly enforced.

For instance, your probation officer may be authorized to check on you at work, and a surprise visit might not please the boss. You'll also likely need to stick to an exact schedule and make sure any electronic monitoring device stays charged. The lack of flexibility means your employer won't be able to ask you to stay a few extra hours, drive somewhere to pick up supplies, or otherwise alter the parameters of the job. And, if your monitor runs low on battery, you might be "chained" to a charging cord. All of these minor details can add up to a big deal for your employer.

Getting Help

If you're under house arrest or considering house arrest, it's a good idea to talk over the details with your attorney. Your lawyer can answer any questions or concerns you may have about the rights and responsibilities that come with house arrest and work-release privileges. Your lawyer can assist you in making sure you comply with all requirements so you do not incur additional penalties or criminal sanctions.

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