If you are charged with committing a crime, your main worry is most likely the sentence that you could face and fears about being sentenced to prison or jail. However, the Commonwealth of Virginia has a number of sentencing alternatives to jail in many localities. These may allow you to continue in your employment or offer you drug or alcohol treatment options where appropriate.
What Are Alternative Sentences to Jail Time in Virginia?
Your eligibility for an alternative sentence will depend on many factors, including the crime that you were convicted of, your criminal record, and the specific circumstances of your case. An experienced criminal defense attorney will understand the available options and your eligibility for them. Some alternative sentences could include the following:
- Suspended jail time. A suspension of jail time means that you do not have to serve your prison or jail sentence as long as you comply with the conditions set by the judge. You are placed on probation instead. You are placed on probation instead, which may involve active supervision or simply unsupervised probation. Conditions that are commonly set include not committing any other crimes, paying fines and court costs, completing a substance abuse treatment program, paying restitution to the victim of the crime, and completing community service. If you violate the terms of your probation, you will be required to attend a hearing where the judge could order you to serve some or all of the suspended sentence.
- Jail served on weekends. Some jails permit people to serve their sentences on weekends so that they can remain employed. Each jurisdiction has its own requirements and application processes. Space can be limited. The Fairfax County weekend confinement program requires you to report by 6:00 p.m. on Friday and be released at 8:00 a.m. on Monday. You could be subject to random blood, breath, or urine tests. You must pay a fee of $2.00 per day for the program. If you fail to arrive by 6:00 pm on Friday, you are violating the terms of your sentence, and it could be reported to the judge. Not all defendants are eligible to serve their sentences on the weekend, and your attorney can advise you on whether you may be eligible to do so.
- Work release. You may be eligible for a work release program by which you are released from jail to go to work each day. Like weekend jail programs, each county has its own program and qualification requirements. In Fairfax County, for example, the requirements are having 30 to 180 days remaining on your sentence, having no pending warrants or charges, no violent crimes, not being convicted of sex crimes or crimes involving children, never escaping from custody, and not violating a work program rule. You must live in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC. You may also be required to complete a substance abuse treatment program first.
- House arrest. This is also known as an electronic incarceration program and allows you to remain at home and continue your employment instead of serving your sentence in jail. In Fairfax County, the rules are similar to those of the work release program except for a few additional requirements. You must wear an ankle or other electronic device, pay a portion of the fee for the program, be subject to random home inspections, and live in Virginia. People who have committed certain felonies, such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, and felony sex crimes, are not eligible for the program. You should consult with your attorney regarding whether you may be eligible for home confinement.
- Community service. In some cases, a person may be sentenced to perform community service instead of jail time. The judge usually sets a specific number of community service hours that the person must perform. Additional penalties, such as costs and fines, may be assessed as well.
- Community Labor Force Offender Program (CLFO). People convicted of misdemeanors or traffic violations may be placed in this short-term program in Fairfax County. To avoid jail time, low-risk offenders perform manual labor, such as removing graffiti, cleaning streams and rivers, and participating in other revitalization projects.
- Fines Option Program (FOP). This is another Fairfax County program that allows people to report to a pre-release center on weekend mornings to perform community service that is applied to court costs and fines that they owe. Work that may be assigned includes painting buildings, cleaning up litter, and moving furniture.
If you are charged with a crime, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the programs that you could be eligible for to avoid jail time if you are convicted or enter into a plea agreement. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and learn how our trusted attorneys can help you achieve the best possible outcome.