While lawyers and judges are the ultimate legal experts, of course, I believe that every citizen should take the time to learn a little about law for several reasons. First, it is important to know your rights, and knowing them can come in handy if anyone ever accuses you of a crime you didn't commit or threatens you legally in another other way. Second, learning about your local, state, and federal laws can help you act as a better citizen. When election time comes around, you can then truly understand ever change in law being proposed by a candidate and whether it benefits society or not. I plan to share posts about law topics explained in plain English on my new blog, so you can come back often to sharpen your legal knowledge!
No one wants to do jail time. Most of those arrested will do almost anything to avoid incarceration, and fortunately, most judicial authorities agree with that sentiment. Jails are already overcrowded, dangerous, and expensive to maintain, so most states now have a laundry list of jail alternatives for those who meet the qualifications. Read on and see if one of the below options sounds better than jail to you.
Special Courts – Many counties now offer those accused of certain crimes a chance to change their lives without having to go to jail. Drug courts are probably the best-known of these types of programs, but you may also find special programs for veterans, young offenders, the homeless, and more. These programs are presided over by a judge, lawyers for the state and for the defendant, and sometimes, mentors. The mentors and others monitor offenders for a given period of time. Drug testing, employment, and other requirements must be met. At the end of the specified time, offenders "graduate" from the program without a record and are free to go. Re-offenders are often sentenced to jail.
Public Work – Here, those arrested for certain crimes must work for the county or city for a given period of time. The work usually involves things like picking up trash, cleaning municipal facilities, and more. While you can avoid jail by doing public work, you may be unable to attend to your usual job or educational obligations while doing so.
Community Service – Not to be confused with public work, community service involves working for non-profit organizations. That often means working in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and more.
Suspended Sentencing – This type of alternative punishment goes hand in hand with probation. Here, the offender is given probation and a suspended sentence. The suspended part of the sentence is jail time. That jail time never has to happen if the offender obeys all probation rules, however. The only catch is that the time you might have to serve if you violate probation is usually more than if you took the original sentence of jail time.
Substance Abuse Treatment – People with addiction problems seldom get better in jail. With that in mind, many states now offer drug and alcohol offenders the opportunity to undergo treatment instead of going to jail or other punishments. The forms of treatment can vary, with some places only requiring attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Some states, however, only accept in-patient treatment at residential rehabilitation facilities in lieu of jail time.
Miscellaneous Alternatives – Many other programs exist that involve some jail time but allow offenders time out of jail to work, go to school, etc. There are weekend-only jail sentences for others. These alternative punishments may only be offered to some, and it pays to have a defense attorney who knows about them and can advise you on them. Speak to a criminal law attorney today.
To learn more about your options, contact a criminal defense attorney.