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Go Directly to Jail--Unless You Prefer Home Cooking

One of the most common questions clients ask when they are facing the possibility of a jail sentence is: "Will I be able to get house arrest instead?" The answer, unfortunately, is complicated. But here is a primer on a few of the things that determine whether or not someone will be eligible.

What is house arrest?

Sometimes a jail sentence doesn't actually mean serving time in jail. In some Wisconsin counties, including Dane County, the sheriff's department runs a Jail Diversion Program that permits an individual to serve his or her jail time at home instead of at the jail. This is often referred to as electronic monitoring or house arrest.

How does it work?

Before reporting for your jail sentence, you will have to submit an application ot he county sheriff. Assuming that you are approved for house arrest, the jail will release you with a GPS bracelet that can be used to monitor your whereabouts. You will be authorized to leave your house for approved activities, such as work, school, drug, alcohol or mental health treatment, or childcare. However, you will be required to remain in your house at all other times. The GPS electronic monitoring device will notify the sheriff's department in the event you leave your home at an unauthorized time. The sheriff's department can also use the GPS data to determine whether or not you were in authorized locations when leaving the house.

Am I eligible for house arrest?

Eligibility requirements vary by county, but generally you will need to have an available, approved residence in the county in which you are serving your sentence. You must also be sentenced with Huber privileges. In Dane County, sentences are assumed to be with Huber privileges unless otherwise ordered by the Judge at the time of sentencing, but that is not the case in other Wisconsin counties. Finally, you must be able to pass a drug test at the time you are admitted to the jail.

Beyond these requirements, the sheriff's department will consider your criminal history, including any pending charges, as well as previously documented behavior problems that would have occurred during prior periods of incarceration. If the sentence is for a serious crime, or you have a history of committing serious crimes, such as robbery or sexual assault, you will not be immediately eligible. Finally, in Dane County, you will also be required to schedule an alcohol and drug assessment if you are being sentenced for an OWI-related crime before you will be considered eligible.

Does it Cost anything?

Yes. While the cost varies county-to-county, in Dane County the cost for electronic monitoring is $20 dollars a day. However, depending upon your income, you may qualify for a reduction in cost.

If you are dealing with a criminal charge that may result in jail time, make sure you contact an attorney to determine whether or not house arrest is available in your county and, if so, what steps need to be taken to serve your jail sentence in the comfort of your own home, as opposed to in the county jail.

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