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Learn the Facts About Alternative Sentencing

by Shelby Wall

If you’re facing criminal charges for a felony or misdemeanor, it may be possible to avoid time in jail or prison through California’s alternative sentencing programs. 

California’s Alternative Sentencing Program

California offers several alternative sentencing programs that allow criminal offenders to complete their sentences at home or in community spaces. Alternative sentencing is beneficial to convicted offenders and taxpayers. They reduce the strain on overfilled prisons and jails and allow offenders to rehabilitate themselves without severe damage to their reputation, job loss, and financial hardship.

Specific laws, including Penal Code § 1000 and Prop. 36, allow for drug diversion and drug treatment programs for individuals convicted of drug-related offenses. In some cases, individuals who complete the programs may receive a full dismissal of the charges against them.

Common Types of Alternative Sentencing

Five types of alternative sentencing exist in California, including community service, home detention, drug diversion or drug treatment programs, and probation.

Community service requires an offender to perform work that benefits their neighborhood or community. Individuals whose crime was not violent or a serious felony may be awarded a sentence of community service. California requires that any community service performed be beneficial to the community and somehow relate to the crime the individual committed.

Home detention, sometimes referred to as house arrest or electronic monitoring, is another form of alternative sentencing. Offenders who receive home detention sentences must remain at home and adhere to certain restrictions, including random drug testing and visits with their parole officer. In some cases, the court may allow them to leave their residence for work or school or to take care of family obligations.

A court may sentence an individual to attend a drug diversion program for minor drug offenses, such as possessing an illegal drug. Penal Code § 1000 specifically allows eligible offenders to obtain a complete dismissal of the charges against them if they complete the program. Thus, they won’t need to report the offense if someone requests their criminal records. 

Sometimes, drug offenders may not qualify for the provisions available under Penal Code § 1000. Instead, they may be eligible for a drug treatment program if their offense was drug-related and did not involve violence. Prop. 36 requires offenders to plead guilty to their charges to avoid time in prison. Upon completion of their program, they will appear in court, where the judge will decide whether to dismiss the charges. Unlike Penal Code § 1000, complete dismissal of charges is not guaranteed. The offender may still have a criminal offense on their record.

Probation is the final alternative sentencing option. Courts can sentence offenders to probation whether their crimes involve a misdemeanor or felony. Typically, the individual must report to an officer of the court and fulfill specific responsibilities, such as paying fines, undergoing therapy or treatment, and obtaining a job. 

Qualified Representation for Your Criminal Case

If you’re facing criminal charges in Orange County, California, you’ll want to avoid the potential of prison or jail time and minimize the long-term impacts of your offense. Attorney Ronald Brower is an experienced criminal lawyer who can assist you in your case. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.