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The term house arrest or home detention can mean very different things in different jurisdictions. Likewise, the types of criminals that are sentenced to home detention, may also vary by jurisdiction. Even within the United States alone, the types of criminals that receive this punishment may vary from one city to the next. As a very general rule, however, house arrest is used as a pretrial release condition or post-conviction sentencing option for offenders who have committed a serious misdemeanor or a less serious felony and who are employed with have a stable place to live.
House arrest may mean anything from simply being under a court order not to leave one's house for anything other than work or school, to having one's house surrounded by soldiers who are under orders not to let one leave, as is sometimes the case with a deposed president or high-ranking government official. Typically, however, it refers to either a pre- or post-trial order requiring a person to remain in his or her house except for work, school, or court. Home detention is often accompanied by an order for electronic monitoring. Electronic monitoring may be in the form of an alcohol sensor to randomly check whether the person has consumed alcohol, or a global positioning satellite bracelet that can monitor where the person is at all times.
Each jurisdiction around the world will have its own rules and regulations regarding who is eligible for house arrest. Within the United States, individual court systems make their own rules, making it difficult to generalize with regard to who receives home detention. In most cases, however, home detention may be used as a pretrial condition of release while a case is pending for what the court views as a serious crime, but when a defendant has little or no criminal history and has stable and lengthy employment that he or she will lose if not released.
As a sentencing option, house arrest is also frequently used for offenders who have committed a crime that warrants more than a simple fine or probation. Generally, home detention is considered an executed sentence, meaning the person has committed a crime which is serious enough to call for incarceration; however, the judge is allowing the defendant to serve the incarceration at home. In most cases, violent offenders will not be allowed to serve a sentence on home detention as the risk to the community is too great. Possession of a controlled substance or driving while intoxicated are common convictions for which a defendant might receive house arrest in the United States.