Skip to navigation
Here to Protect Your Future With Dedicated Legal Representation SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION

Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail? 

Underwood Law Firm  Dec. 29, 2022

Criminal man with handcuffs in interrogation roomAccording to recent statistics from the Prison Policy Initiative, there are approximately 368,000 unique jail admissions in California per year. Imprisonment remains the most common punishment for individuals convicted of a crime in The Golden State. Unfortunately, many inmates often suffer the negative consequences of imprisonment, including mental health issues and antisocial behaviors. 

Thankfully, there are other alternatives to jail. These can help encourage rehabilitation and reform without institutionalization. An experienced California criminal defense attorney can enlighten you about your alternatives to going to jail following a criminal conviction. 

Our dependable attorneys at Underwood Law Firm are committed to providing skilled legal counsel and strong representation to clients in alternative sentencing matters. As your legal counsel, we can assess the surrounding circumstances of your unique situation and explore your available alternatives to imprisonment. We proudly serve clients throughout Bakersfield, Lamont, and Kern County, California. 

What Is Alternative Sentencing? 

Alternative sentencing includes legal consequences other than jail or prison time. The primary purpose of alternative sentencing is to encourage rehabilitation and reform while mitigating the adverse impact of the jail experience. Rather than locking the person behind bars, the criminal court may impose other imprisonment alternatives on the convicted defendant. 

Benefits of Alternative Sentencing 

There are many benefits of alternative sentencing. Alternative sentencing does the following: 

  • There is less time spent in a county jail or state prison.  

  • Offenders can get profesisonal counseling and safe addiction treatment.  

  • Defendants can contribute positively to their community. 

  • Operation costs are reduced in county jails and state prison.  

  • It can help reduce the adverse effect of prison on the defendant's body, mind, and emotions. 

  • It helps the offender avoid institutionalization and learn important life lessons and skills. 

If you've been convicted of a crime and want to know your alternatives to serving jail or prison time, you need to reach out to a highly-skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. Your lawyer can help you understand sentencing guidelines. They can also help you explore possible incarceration alternatives. 

Alternative Sentencing in California 

Here are some of the sentencing alternatives available to defendants in California: 

Diversion Programs 

California pretrial diversion programs are designed to allow eligible offenders avoid serving time in jail, provided that they can complete education classes and treatment programs. Once successfully completed, the defendant's arrest record will be sealed, and the case will be dismissed.  

The three main types of diversion programs in California include: 

  • Drug Diversion – This is available for individuals who committed certain drug-related non-violent misdemeanors, such as unlawful drug possession or cultivation. The court requires the defendant to complete a list of treatments, including substance abuse treatment, alcohol treatment, and other additional classes. 

  • Military Diversion – In California, past and current service members accused of a misdemeanor crime may qualify for military diversion. To be eligible, the defendant must be suffering from substance abuse, sexual trauma, TBI, PTSD, and other mental health disorders. 

  • Mental Health Diversion – Mental health diversion allows individuals with mental health problems to receive court-approved treatment, including drug treatment, therapy sessions, and counseling. In California, most misdemeanors and felonies may be dismissed through mental health diversion. 

Home Detention 

Home detention – also known as electronic monitoring or house arrest – is a sentencing alternative that involves confining the defendant in their home instead of serving prison or jail time. During house arrest, the offender must strictly adhere to certain terms and provisions. These include: 

  • Curfew restrictions 

  • Home visits with a probation or parole officer 

  • Face-to-face meetings with a parole or probation officer 

  • Random drug testing 

Depending on the surrounding circumstances of the offense, the defendant may be allowed to attend school, go to work, receive counseling, attend to family obligations, and travel for medical treatments. In most cases, the defendant will be required to wear an electronic bracelet. This will be used to track their activities and whereabouts. 

Community Service 

Furthermore, a defendant may be sentenced to perform unpaid work and projects within their community or neighborhood. This is referred to as community service. As a sentencing alternative, community service must benefit the defendant's immediate community as a whole. However, the offense committed must be connected with the community. Also, community service is only available for misdemeanors and other non-violent crimes. 

Proposition 36 

Proposition 36 or Prop 36 is an alternative sentencing option that allows eligible defendants – who committed non-violent drug-related offenses – to attend drug treatment programs rather than serving time in jail or prison. However, eligibility for Proposition 36 will require a guilty plea. Upon completion, the judge will decide whether to dismiss the defendant's charges or not. 


Probation is a non-prison sentencing option which requires the defendant to serve their time under court supervision. In addition, the defendant under probation is required to adhere to all the terms and conditions of their probation. The two types of probation that are available in California include: 

  • Misdemeanor or summary probation for misdemeanor offenders, and 

  • Felony or formal probation for felony offenders. 

However, violating any conditions of your probation may result in severe consequences, such as probation revocation, jail time, fines, or additional sentencing. 

Essentially, there are still other forms of alternative sentencing for offenders convicted in California. A practiced legal counsel can fight zealously for your rights and help negotiate a favorable plea bargain, including possible alternatives to jail. 

Trusted Legal Guidance When You Need It Most  

Being convicted of a crime can be terrifying and can have devastating consequences on every aspect of your life and future. However, this doesn't automatically mean you have to go to jail or prison. At Underwood Law Firm, we have the knowledge and resources to defend and protect individuals facing criminal accusations from the worst possible punishments. 

Using our in-depth legal understanding, we will explore your available alternative sentencing options and help determine your eligibility. Above all, our reliable legal team will fight vigorously to protect your legal rights and fight with the goal that you don't serve jail or prison time. 

Contact us at Underwood Law Firm today to schedule a simple consultation with strategic criminal defense lawyers. Our dependable legal team can offer you the experienced legal guidance, advocacy, and skilled representation you need to avoid imprisonment. We're proud to serve clients throughout Bakersfield, Lamont, and Kern County, California.