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House arrest is an option for some individuals facing arrest or conviction of a crime. In Pennsylvania, only certain counties use house arrest as an alternative to bail or incarceration. This includes Philadelphia County.
Below are some things you should know about before you decide if this sentence should be part of your legal options.
1. Courts Can Grant House Arrest Instead of Pretrial Custody or Bail, or as an Alternative to Serving a Jail Sentence
A lawyer can ask for pre-trial house arrest instead of letting their clients wait in jail for trial. This may be an option when making monetary bail is not an option, or the judge will not consider bail. House arrest allows people to continue participating in parenting, work, religious services, medical appointments, and appointments with their criminal defense lawyer during the pre-trial period.
Judges may also sentence someone to house arrest as an alternative punishment to jail time. If the judge finds a compelling reason that a defendant should remain in the community, but the crime or prior record is too severe for probation, and more supervision is needed, then the judge can order that they serve the jail sentence on electronic monitoring.
If the sentence includes jail time, then the availability of house arrest depends on the rules of the specific jurisdiction. Some counties are reluctant to allow house arrest, and some do so only if there is crowding in jails.
For a free legal consultation, call 215.515.3360
2. House Arrest, in Many Places, No Longer Requires a Landline Phone
As cell phones grew in popularity, many people replaced their landline phones with cellular devices. Some counties require landlines to monitor house arrest, while others only allow cell phones when the signal is strong. Some jurisdictions use GPS monitoring.
Each county obtains and maintains its own electronic monitoring system. For example, you cannot live in Delaware County while you are on house arrest in Philadelphia County. It is important to speak to a lawyer who can guide you through the appropriate county’s policies and build a case for house arrest on your behalf.
For example, Philadelphia has technology that allows people on house arrest to use their cell phones for house arrest. It works by monitoring cell tower pings and measuring their distance from their own cell phone.
What if I Need a Landline for Monitoring?
Being on house arrest requires a landline phone when the cell phone signal is not strong enough to maintain contact from the cell phone to the tower at all times.
According to the Philadelphia Courts, when electronic monitoring requires a landline, there are many regulations for the phone line. This could include:
- It is plugged into a wall (i.e., no cordless phones)
- It does not have caller ID, conference calling, or other common upgrades
Your attorney can help you learn more about the requirements so you can ensure your phone line meets all qualifications before your release.
3. While on House Arrest, the Courts Consider Your Home a Jail
This sounds obvious, but many people do not understand how restrictive house arrest may be. While on house arrest, there are strict rules. This includes no alcohol, narcotics, or firearms in the home at any time.
Since those overseeing your electronic monitoring consider your home a jail, they can search at any time to ensure there are no prohibited items therein.
Also, the supervising officers will closely monitor all activities in the home. While on house arrest, the defendant cannot have parties at the home or participate in other questionable activities. The supervising officer will also know and approve anyone else who lives in the house.
4. An Electronic Monitoring Device Is Required Most of the Time
Most individuals on house arrest must wear an electronic monitoring device. This device typically goes around the ankle. It collects GPS information that allows the supervising officer to know whether the defendant is following the rules. This includes if they left home and where they went.
While on house arrest, some defendants have permission to leave for certain reasons. This includes travel to and from:
- Probation activities (such as visiting addiction support groups, community service, or appointments with probation/parole officers)
- Necessary appointments with doctors or lawyers
- Court dates
- Religious services
- Some specific errands
The probation officer must be aware of and approve all trips outside of the home, even for a permitted activity.
5. There Are Many Other Requirements That Go Along With House Arrest
While on house arrest, the person incarcerated must comply with many additional requirements, as well. These can vary widely by jurisdiction, charge, and other factors.
At a minimum, they will likely:
- Undergo random drug and alcohol tests
- Meet with a probation or parole officer about four times a month
- Maintain employment or go to school
- Come straight home after any permitted activities
What if the Court Will Not Approve My Home for House Arrest?
In some cases, the court may not approve a home for house arrest. This occurs when the defendant does not have a living environment that meets the strict standards of the supervising judge or county.
This may occur if the person:
- Lives in Section 8 housing or has a Section 8 voucher and did not receive a waiver
- Has excessive roommates
- Lives with someone with a criminal history
- There are other concerns about the effect the environment might have on the defendant
When this occurs, the judge may require the defendant to move into a halfway home if they wish to complete house arrest. A halfway home is a home for people recently released from jail or prison, people on house arrest, or those undergoing required treatment for substance use disorders.
Halfway houses often have very severe restrictions, and the rules may be even more difficult to follow than traditional electronic monitoring. However, many people prefer this sentence over a stay in jail or prison.
Contact the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC., to Learn More Today
If you face charges for an offense that possibly includes jail time if found guilty, you may benefit from having a criminal defense attorney represent you. At Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC., we can assist you with your upcoming hearings and potential sentencing.
While house arrest is not available for every county and every offense, Philadelphia defense lawyer Marni Jo Snyder and her team are knowledgeable about sentencing guidelines.
We can discuss what may be available for your case. Contact our offices today so we can begin fighting for you. Call us at (215) 515-3360 for your free consultation.