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Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

The Torres Attorneys July 15, 2021

According to statistics from the Prison Policy Initiative, about 505,000 different people are booked into local Texas jails each year. While imprisonment is a common punishment for many criminal offenses, there are still other sentencing alternatives. If you've been convicted of a crime and are wanting to understand your alternatives to serving time in county jail or state prison, consulting with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney is crucial for detailed guidance.

At The Torres Law Firm, we are committed to offering knowledgeable legal guidance and comprehensive representation to clients in alternative sentencing matters. As your legal counsel, we will review your situation and explore the alternative sentencing options available to you. Our team will help you understand the laws and procedures that apply to your case and determine the best course of action.

Our team at The Torres Law Firm is proud to represent clients throughout Corpus Christi, Dallas, and Fort Worth, Texas.

Alternative Sentencing

Alternative sentencing is a legal term used to describe the different kinds of punishment available to defendants convicted of crimes, apart from jail time or the death penalty. The purpose of alternative sentencing is to encourage reform while still awarding a fitting punishment to the defendant. Some of the benefits include:

  • It serves as an alternative to serving time in county jail or state prison

  • It has a positive impact on both the defendant and their immediate community

  • It allows the defendant to avoid institutionalization

  • It allows the offender to remain a contributing member of society

  • It reduces the cost of state corrections, thereby saving the taxpayers’ money

  • It reduces the negative effects of jail or prison experience on the defendant's mind and body

  • It allows the offender to receive addiction treatment and professional counseling

  • It allows the defendant to learn important lessons and develop valuable skills

Types of Alternative Sentencing

Qualifying for alternative sentencing depends on the type, seriousness, and severity of the offense committed, and whether the defendant has any prior convictions. Different types of jail alternatives currently available include:


A diversion program makes it possible to divert a criminal court case out of the criminal justice system. This alternative sentencing option is usually available to defendants facing charges for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies involving alcohol or drugs. Upon the completion of a state-funded diversion program, the criminal charges against the defendant will be dropped. Some examples of diversion programs available in Texas include:

  • Pretrial intervention programs for first-time offenders charged with nonviolent criminal offenses

  • Deferred prosecution program (DPP) for young offenders

  • First-time offender drug programs

  • A mental health diversion program (MHD) for mentally impaired offenders

  • Veteran programs to assist offenders who served in the military

  • Drug court diversion programs for individuals with a history of substance abuse

To be eligible for a pre-trial diversion program, an offender must:

  • Have no prior arrests

  • Admit guilt and take responsibility for the crime

  • Report to a probation officer monthly

  • Not commit any new offense during the enrollment period

  • Be employed or enrolled in an accredited school

House Arrest

House arrest is an alternative sentencing option that allows the defendants to serve their prison sentences while staying at home. The defendant will wear an electronic monitoring device on their ankle. The monitoring device is programmed to alert authorities once the offender goes outside the permissible range. The two forms of house arrest in Texas include:

  • Radio Frequency Electronic Monitoring — This is the traditional ankle bracelet. It will immediately transmit a signal once you step outside a certain area.

  • GPS Monitoring — This makes it possible to track and monitor the defendant's whereabouts.

A defendant may be eligible for house arrest if they meet the following criteria:

  • They are a first-time offender

  • They are a juvenile offender

  • The crime committed didn't involve any violence

  • They have a stable job

  • They are physically ill or incapacitated

  • They are prone to suffer abuse during incarceration

Community Service

Community service is a form of punishment intended to benefit the community that was harmed by the crime committed by the offender. As an alternative to jail sentencing, the judge may order the defendant to perform a certain number of community service hours. Depending on the offense, community service may be ordered as a separate sentence or a condition of probation. Some examples of community service include:

  • Performing unpaid work in the community

  • Working at a public agency or nonprofit organization

  • Speaking at an event or school about the consequences of committing a crime


Probation — also known as "community supervision" — is a non-prison sentencing option available to defendants who have been convicted of crimes. Probation eliminates or reduces the time that the defendant must spend incarcerated. The two types of probation in Texas include:

  • Straight Probation — The defendant is under the supervision of the probation department or officer, and if they violate any terms or conditions of their probation, the judge may impose any sentence allowed under Texas law.

  • Deferred Adjudication — The defendant has the opportunity to keep the conviction off of their criminal record, following a guilty or no-contest plea. The judge will place the defendant on deferred adjudication probation. Violating the conditions of this probation while on deferred adjudication may cause the judge to revoke the probation and impose any sentence within the allowable range of punishment.

According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12. Section 3 (a), "a judge, in the best interest of justice, the public, and the defendant, after conviction or a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, may suspend the imposition of the sentence and place the defendant on community supervision or impose a fine applicable to the offense and place the defendant on community supervision."

How Our Team of Attorneys Can Help

Criminal convictions in Texas often have devastating, short- and long-term consequences, but being convicted of a criminal offense doesn't necessarily mean you must go to jail. While there may be other alternatives to incarceration, eligibility for these alternative sentencing options can be complicated. If you are facing criminal charges or the possibility of a criminal conviction, consulting with skilled Texas criminal defense attorneys is crucial for proper guidance.

At The Torres Law Firm, we have the experience and resources to represent clients in their criminal cases and sentencing matters. As your legal counsel, we will review and investigate all of the details of your case, help you understand your sentencing options, and educate you about the potential ramifications. Using our knowledge and legal understanding, we will fight to protect your rights and represent you in every phase of the legal process. Our team can also help you negotiate a plea agreement, including potential alternatives to jail time.

Contact us at The Torres Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys. We will discuss your sentencing alternatives and help you make key decisions. Our firm proudly serves clients throughout Corpus Christi, Dallas, and Fort Worth, Texas.