Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

Nobody wants to go to jail. However, our entire justice system seems to be predicated on punishment for crimes. While there are several different variations of punishment, jail time is often considered one of the most effective deterrents for crimes. It stands as a warning for citizens: break the law, and lose your freedom. Still, our justice system allows for alternatives to jail time—under certain conditions. The state of Virgina offers several such options in many counties. 

An experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney can evaluate your unique situation and enlighten you about your alternative sentencing options. For more than 20 years, E. Gordon Peters, Attorney at Law has been providing comprehensive legal counsel and reliable advocacy to clients in alternative sentencing matters. From his offices in Lynchburg and Blackstone, Gordon and his staff have helped clients throughout the area, including Amherst County, Campbell County, Bedford County, Nottoway County, Prince Edward County, and Charlotte County. If you’re ready to start moving forward, reach out to their team today. 

Alternative Sentencing in Virginia

As the name suggests, alternative sentencing is used to describe various kinds of punishments which can be imposed on a convicted defendant. The goal of these sentencing alternatives—which bypass imprisonment in county jail, state prison, or (in rare cases) the death penalty—is to encourage rehabilitation while still providing an appropriate punishment to the offender. Alternative sentencing has several benefits, including:

  • To provide a substitute to jail time
  • To provide support, addiction treatment, and counseling
  • To help a defendant avoid potential institutionalization
  • To reduce the harmful effects ofimprisonment on the defendant's health
  • To reduce the cost to taxpayers
  • To ensure the strategic use of prison space
  • To encourage rehabilitation and allow the offender to learn life skills
  • To prevent relapses and increase the chances of full rehabilitation

Diversion

Virginia’s diversion program provides non-violent felony offenders with employment skills and training over a five-to-seven-month period. Medical, psychological, and substance abuse counseling are also available. Additional services may include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups
  • Basic education classes
  • GED preparation classes
  • Parenting classes
  • Independent living skills training

House Arrest

One of the more common forms of alternative sentencing, house arrest—or an “electronic incarceration program”—allows a person to remain at home and continue their employment instead of serving their sentence in jail. While under house arrest, the person must wear an ankle or other electronic device, pay a portion of the fee for the program, be subject to random home inspections, live in Virginia, and other requirements. 

Community Service

Community service is another common alternative sentence option. For some convicted offenders, community service will be ordered instead of jail time. A judge typically determines the community service hours that the offender is required to serve, which is dependent on the crime committed and the degree of the conviction.

Community service has many benefits, including a low cost to the taxpayers, flexibility for both corrections officers and offenders, and instilling a sense of service.

Probation

Another alternative to jail time is probation. Similar to a suspended sentence, probation releases the individual back into the community, but without the same amount of freedom as a normal citizen. Judges typically grant probation for first-time or low-risk offenders. State law determines when probation is possible, but it is up to the judge to determine whether or not to actually grant probation. Courts have a great deal of discretion when imposing the conditions of the probation.

One of the benefits of probation is that it allows the offender to receive support from their network of family and friends which is much needed during this difficult and transitional stage of their life. It also allows them to be employed and support their family and needs. An added benefit is that probation costs the state only a fraction of what a prison or jail stay costs.

How E. Gordon Peters, Attorney At Law Can Help You

If you’re facing criminal charges, it is imperative that you retain an aggressive and highly skilled Virginia criminal defense lawyer to build a strong defense strategy for your case.  That includes exploring any alternative sentencing options. Gordon is dedicated to providing comprehensive legal guidance and reliable representation to individuals facing criminal charges in Virginia. His firm—E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law—is proud to serve clients in Lynchburg, Blackstone, as well as Amherst County, Campbell County, Bedford County, Nottoway County, Prince Edward County, and Charlotte County.


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