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Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

The Law Office of John Goalwin Nov. 8, 2022

criminal locked in jailIf you are facing criminal charges that could result in imprisonment, you may wonder whether there are alternatives to incarceration in your particular case. Depending on your situation, you may be able to pursue some alternative sentencing options to avoid going to jail or prison.  

At The Law Office of John Goalwin, we are committed to providing reliable and compassionate legal representation to individuals seeking alternatives to imprisonment. With an office in Los Angeles, California, we devise strong defense strategies and represent the best interests of our clients throughout the state, including Van Nuys, Compton, Norwalk, and Torrance.  

What Does ‘Alternative Sentencing’ Mean?  

The term “alternative sentencing” is used to cover a variety of different alternatives to going to jail or prison. Alternative sentencing options allow eligible individuals to make positive life changes while remaining in their communities.  

Some of the most prominent benefits of alternative sentencing include: 

  • It helps reduce jail and prison populations to avoid overcrowding. 

  • It gives the offender a chance to learn life lessons, change their life, and develop valuable skills. 

  • It allows the offender to be a contributing member of society. 

  • It saves taxpayers money by reducing the cost of incarceration. 

  • It reduces or eliminates the negative impact of incarceration on the offender’s mental and physical health. 

  • It allows the defendant to receive professional counseling and/or addiction treatment. 

Below, we will review the alternative sentencing options available to offenders facing incarceration in California.  

Pre-Trial Diversion Program 

California has a pre-trial diversion program for non-violent offenders that allows them to avoid serving time in jail by completing education or treatment courses. State law recognizes two pre-trial diversion programs: 

  1. Low-level misdemeanor diversion (e.g., drug diversion for low-level drugs offenses); and 

  1. Mental health diversion 

By successfully completing the diversion program, the charges against the offender will be dismissed and sealed from their criminal record. If the defendant fails, their criminal case will proceed where it left off before the diversion.  

Home Detention 

Home detention, which is commonly referred to as “house arrest,” is exactly what it sounds like. Offenders on home detention are confined to their homes instead of serving time in jail or prison. In addition to completing jail time in their own residence, offenders may be required to:  

  • Comply with curfew restrictions 

  • Submit to random drug tests 

  • Meet with a parole or probation officer when requested 

Depending on the circumstances, offenders on home detention may be permitted to go to work, attend school, travel to medical appointments, or leave the house for other specific reasons.  

Community Service  

Community service is a common sentencing alternative. Convicted individuals assigned to community service must perform unpaid work for the betterment of the community instead of serving time behind bars. The community service imposed on a convicted person is usually connected to the crime that was committed by the convict. Community service is typically not available to people accused of violent offenses or serious felonies. 


Probation is an alternative sentencing option in which the offender serves all or a part of their sentence under court supervision but not in custody. California courts recognize two types of probation: summary probation for misdemeanor offenders and formal probation for felony offenders.  

Offenders on probation must adhere to the terms and conditions imposed by the judge. Failure to comply with the conditions can result in a modification of the terms or revocation of probation altogether. In the latter case, the offender will be sent to jail or prison to serve their sentence in custody.  

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges that may result in imprisonment, you may want to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you explore possible alternative sentencing options.   

Legal Advocacy When You Need It Most  

As you can see, there are several alternatives to going to jail that may be available to you. If you want to avoid time behind bars, you must pursue alternative sentencing options before it is too late. Attorney John Goalwin can help you explore your alternative sentencing options and work toward securing the best possible outcome in your case. Contact our office in Los Angeles, California, to get a free case evaluation.