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What Types of Criminals Get House Arrest?

Leigia Rosales
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Leigia Rosales
By Leigia Rosales
Leigia Rosales is a former attorney turned freelance writer. With a law degree and a background in legal practice, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers. Her ability to understand complex topics and communicate them effectively makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon992536 — On Sep 14, 2015

As a minority, if you're arrested for a second time for theft can you be put on house arrest?

By anon971947 — On Sep 30, 2014

@emilski: Yeah, people should be punished for what they do, but sometimes people keep making mistakes until they finally realize they want to change.

I've been busted for petty theft and always went in and out of jail until I met my girlfriend. She has a daughter and I've been with her four years raising her daughter, and just last year I did something stupid. I got a probation violation and they're trying to give me four months in jail and now I'm scared because I was doing so good for four years and changed a lot about me. Throwing me back in jail won't help; it'll just make it worse because then I will be with other criminals and hearing about their crimes and will probably be influenced to do something. Not that I will be influenced, but throwing me in jail won't work.

I have a good job right now and have a daughter I've raised since she was a year old and I've been doing great since I met my girl. She changed a lot about me and that's why I'm afraid to go back in. If I were still in a gang and were single, I wouldn't mind doing four months, but now I have a family to lose and whom I support. The court system is trying to deny me getting house arrest for four months. I'm doing so great, so why are they trying to take that away from me? Don't they want to see me doing good? Jail? Well, just throw away all the effort it took me to look for a good job.

Some people make mistakes, not just two times, but more like me. I messed up plenty of times and I know I don't deserve a chance because I was given many, but this time I just feel like I'm not who I used to be anymore. I think I honestly deserve a last opportunity to prove that I'm going down the right path. It took me years, but I finally met someone who is worth being with for changing who I am.

By KoolBreeze42 — On Oct 12, 2013

@Emilski: House arrest should be used more often than jail. I am not sure what people you have talked to who only get a weekend and where you get the idea that a weekend in Jail will straighten them out, but this just isn't true. I have done my share of time behind bars. My last arrest was for having pot. I was sentenced to four months of house arrest and one year probation. I think the house arrest was harder than a year in jail, plus the cost to keep me at home versus the cost of a four month stay in jail is an enormous savings for the city.

Do you realize how much it costs taxpayers to keep a person in jail? The Independent Budget Office found that in 2012 it cost the city $167,731 to hold each of its daily average of 12,287 inmates, or about $460 per inmate per day. Is it worth $460 per day to punish non violent criminals? I think not. This is why house arrest should be used more often than putting a person in jail.

By anon339071 — On Jun 20, 2013

If you think house arrest is not a punishment, think again. I don't know how many of you could stay in your house with every move you make being monitored and all your friends gone.

In the US, sentences of multiple years are dispensed without thought for the consequences for all involved regardless of the crime or the 'danger' to the community. Most people in prison now are non-violent offenders. Most pose no danger to anyone and they are likely to never re-offend. And yet the public keeps screaming for them to be locked up forever and their lives destroyed.

Those of you who so easily cry for 'punishment' should look at your own lives. Are you so flawless and perfect and superior? Have you never done anything wrong to anyone? Have you never lied or cheated? Please show some empathy. People who are dangerous to society do need to be put in jail. But these days, that is not the primary purpose of jail. Our system has become purely punitive and not rehabilitative - and that's a disgrace.

By cardsfan27 — On Apr 21, 2012

@titans62 - I am pretty sure that there are certain guide lines that judges have to follow as far as sentencing someone to house arrest.

I feel like sometimes the punishment is done in order to avoid jail time, as I have heard instances of someone being sentenced to well over one month of house arrest, in order to avoid jail time for something that was semi serious.

I know that house arrest is something that is used a lot in plea deals in order to make sure that the person does not receive jail time as long as they can follow certain commitments that they agree to.

As far as people that have to wear ankle bracelets go, these are rare and people do not usually wear these unless there is a possibility they may try to escape, so the issue of house arrest is well thought out and there are numerous different ways that courts can administer the sentence and ways of getting something in return for not sending the person to jail, such as community service.

By titans62 — On Apr 20, 2012

@Emilski - That is a strong statement to make, but to be honest jail time is seen as something that is serious and is only reserved for people that the courts feel deserve it.

I agree that house arrest can seem a little lax at times and that is why when people receive these sentences the courts need to give it to them for more than one weekend as it becomes an annoyance for the people sentenced to it.

To be honest I can understand your standpoint, but in reality I can see that house arrest can be effective if it is done the correct way and the instances you are referring to are when the sentence was not appropriate for the crime.

Maybe there is only so much someone can be sentenced to as far as house arrests goes with a certain crime, but I do not know and house arrests may vary quite a lot.

By Emilski — On Apr 19, 2012

@jmc88 - I really do not like house arrest simply because whenever I see people held under house arrest they are only sentenced to something like a weekend, which to me is not punishment at all.

I feel like people should be punished fairly for their crimes and they should be punished appropriately. That is why I do not think that someone being stuck in the comfort of their own home is punishment.

In reality, if someone has committed a crime and it is only their first offense and is minor, a weekend in jail will scare them straight into ensuring that they will not commit the crime again.

A weekend in jail will not turn someone into a hardened criminal, but will only allow them an eye opening experience that will show them not to make the mistake again.

By jmc88 — On Apr 18, 2012

Most people that receive house arrest as the bulk of their sentence are usually people that have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes and they do not believe that these people are a threat to society or have done something bad enough to warrant jail time.

I know many people that have only been sentenced to house arrest for their first offense and that is because the court sees them as simply acting out of character. When these cases happen that is when the court goes easy on the person and does not feel like jail will help them any and that the punishment does not fit the crime.

Whether or not this is the right decision is questionable as some people do not believe house arrests appropriately punishes the person for the crime they committed.

Leigia Rosales
Leigia Rosales
Leigia Rosales is a former attorney turned freelance writer. With a law degree and a background in legal practice, she...
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