March 30, 2020

Can You Serve a Sentence on House Arrest during the COVID-19 crisis?

Learn if you can serve your sentence on house arrest instead of going to jail.

Dallas, TX — Even under regular circumstances, many people wonder if it’s possible to serve a criminal sentence under house arrest rather than going to jail. Incarceration affects every aspect of your life, including keeping your job and taking care of your children. During the COVID-19 crisis, certain areas, including Dallas county, are ordering shelter-in-place orders, a house arrest sentence may seem especially desirable. 

Read on to discover the answers to common questions about house arrest in Texas, with advice from Texas criminal defense lawyer John Helms. 

Can I Serve My Sentence on House Arrest Instead of Going to Jail?

Texas law allows courts to sentence an individual to house arrest. “While house arrest isn’t very common, it may be possible to convince the court to grant you house arrest rather than time in jail.” If you’re interested in serving a sentence under house arrest, you should speak with an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer.  

Who Is Eligible for House Arrest? 

Only misdemeanor sentences are eligible for house arrest. When the court orders you to serve house arrest, you must comply with all the terms of your sentence, which can include wearing an electronic bracelet on your ankle whenever you are allowed to leave the house. “In most situations, the court will permit the individual to leave their home to attend to important responsibilities,” says Helms, who has over 20 years of experience as an attorney. “In general, courts in Texas have broad discretion when it comes to setting the terms of house arrest.” 

When Do Courts Grant House Arrest? 

Courts are only likely to allow house arrest under specific circumstances. “The court will also look at factors like the defendant’s criminal history and whether this is their first offense or a repeat offense, as well as the responsibilities that would be affected by incarceration,” says Helms, “It’s important to remember that house arrest isn’t a right, and asking for it doesn’t guarantee the court will grant it. Whether a defendant is eligible for house arrest is largely within the court’s discretion.

This is why it’s essential to work with a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer can help you decide whether it’s in your best interest to ask for house arrest, as well as prepare a motion that sets forth all the reasons why house arrest is appropriate in your case.  

How Does a Person Get House Arrest? 

“The motion should offer compelling arguments designed to persuade the judge that time in jail could result in unnecessarily negative consequences, such as the loss of a good job,” Helms advises, “For example, if the defendant is a single parent with no family members who could care for their children, the motion might argue that it would be detrimental to the defendant’s children if the defendant was confined to jail.”

House Arrest Is Still a Serious Sentence 

If you’re placed under house arrest, it’s critical to comply with all of the terms of your sentence. “Just because you have the flexibility of being at home doesn’t mean you can come and go as you please,” Helms reminds us. “In most cases, the court will require the defendant to make regular reports to a parole officer.” You may also be required to complete relevant coursework or programs as part of your sentence. 

Visit John Helms law firm office in Dallas, Texas here.

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