What is House Arrest?

what is house arrest

In the American justice system, courts offer several different types of punishments that vary in severity and depend on the specifics of the crime committed. One type of lesser punishment is house arrest. So, now the question comes what is house arrest? The arrest is given to some offenders as an alternative to imprisonment or a custodial sentence. 

When ordered to remain under house arrest, the individual must remain confined to their home and wear an electronic monitoring device to ensure they comply with the terms of their confinement.

What does house arrest mean?

House arrest requires an accused or convicted defendant to stay at home under electronic monitoring as a condition of release or an alternative to incarceration. 

Rather than incarceration, house arrest allows offenders to earn an income, maintain family and other relationships, and attend necessary probation appointments and rehabilitative treatment.

At the same time, it gives probation officers, parole boards, and judges different tools in their toolbox:

  • to ensure the presence of the defendant in the court
  • used as an alternative to traditional incarceration
  • reduce prison and jail populations, or monitor offenders on probation or parole.

House arrest usually comes with a curfew and strict conditions on when the defendant can leave home. It is not a way to “let the offender go easy” but is meant to be restrictive and is a legitimate form of surveillance or punishment.

Legal definition—house arrest

The American legal system defines house arrest as the incarceration in the offender’s home or other designated place as an alternative to imprisonment.

The phrase is interchangeably used with several others, including house arrest, house arrest, and electronic monitoring. It is usually only considered an appropriate punishment for first non-violent offenses.

House arrest may also be issued before trial to help detain the offender from official conviction and sentencing in court.

How does house arrest work?

The criminal defense attorney recommends the judge to issue a house arrest sentence. The courts then determine whether or not this is an appropriate punishment.

Generally, house arrest is granted to first offenders who are low-risk criminals. Furthermore, given that offenders remain an integral part of society, this punishment is only given for non-violent crimes that pose a minimal risk to humankind.

Examples are- criminals convicted of fraud or embezzlement. On the other hand, house arrest is not given for grave crimes such as murder or rape.

A house arrest agreement will be determined while sentencing. Each US state has its laws and guidelines regarding house arrest use; therefore, restrictions will vary from state to state.

In addition, the details of the offense can affect the rules of house arrest, with more freedom offered to lower-risk criminals.

Rules and restrictions of house arrest

House arrest does not necessarily confine offenders to their homes 24/7. In some cases, offenders may be allowed to go to work and school, attend religious services, and attend medical appointments or court-ordered treatment.

House arrest can be more restrictive, depending on the details of the prison and the offense. House arrest often comes with additional conditions such as:

  • An arrestee may be required to abstain from both drugs and alcohol. It is inspected by the probation officer that prohibited substances are not in the arrestee’s home.
  • The arrested person must comply with the evening curfew.
  • The arrested person must present for drug testing.
  • In many cases, the arrested person must also participate in community service as part of the sentence.

Violations of house arrest rules can result in the arrestee serving the remainder of their sentence in jail or prison.

Who is eligible for house arrest?

Common eligibility factors for consideration for house arrest include the following:

  • You should not have a long criminal history. If it is your first offense, you will likely face house arrest.
  • You are not a violent offender, and the crime you committed is unlikely to cause immediate harm to others.
  • You are a juvenile offender under the surveillance of your parents.
  • You have a good and stable employment history.
  • Jail time seems too harsh for your crime, but probation is too lenient.
  • You are released on parole, and the board decides that electronic monitoring is an appropriate level of supervision for your offense and prison history.

How to get house arrest?

How to apply for house arrest will depend on the circumstances and stage of your case. Your attorney can help you evaluate whether this is a viable and better option for you and make arguments on your behalf.

Preliminary proceedings; bail condition 

In the American justice system, courts offer several different types of punishments that vary in severity and depend on the specifics of the crime committed. One type of lesser punishment is house arrest which is given to some offenders as an alternative to imprisonment or a custodial sentence. 

When ordered to remain under house arrest, the individual must remain confined to their home and wear an electronic monitoring device to ensure they comply with the terms of their confinement.

Alternative sentence or probation

For those considering a plea deal, your attorney may suggest house arrest to the prosecutor when negotiating. If you are awaiting sentencing, your attorney can ask the judge to order house arrest as an alternative to a prison sentence or a condition of probation.

Condition of parole

Inmates may be able to apply for house arrest as a condition of parole or supervised release. Home detention may be required in some states and for certain crimes.

Can I even leave my home during house arrest?

The term “house arrest” can be misleading. Despite the phrase meaning total house arrest, the offender can leave his home under house arrest. However, the reason for leaving the place of residence must be discussed and approved in advance by the court. When leaving home, the offender must also have a monitoring device.

The location of the activity must be specified to ensure the offender’s location and to manage the activity accurately. After performing the permitted activity, the individual must return home immediately.

Additionally, these house arrest breaks can only occur during set hours of the day, and visiting pre-approved locations outside of curfew would be classified as a breach of contract.

Some examples of situations commonly accepted as approved grounds for leaving home under house arrest include:

  • Places of work or education
  • All medical appointments
  • Counseling and therapy appointments
  • Meeting with probation officers
  • Community service obligations
  • Drug testing
  • A church or other place of worship

The above list is incomplete, and more freedom of movement will occasionally be issued. However, this will be discussed in different cases and is not guaranteed. On the other hand, some house arrest sentences have stricter restrictions.

If the offender gets a home arrest sentence, he must stay home 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The only time they can leave would be to attend court hearings or medical appointments.

How long can house arrest last?

House arrest is a form of pre-trial detention, which only lasts until the end of the court proceedings. After a trial, house arrest can last anywhere from two weeks to twelve months, depending on what crime the offender was charged with in court.

Sometimes house arrest is preferred at the end of an offender’s sentence, and they can be released from jail or prison before their sentence ends and serve the remainder under house arrest or electronic monitoring.

What are the consequences of violating house arrest?

A person can break house arrest in several ways. The most obvious is leaving home during limited times. Breaking or attempting to remove an ankle bracelet is also a violation, and even dead batteries can be a violation. The consequences of the infringement will depend on the circumstances of the breach and whether house arrest is a condition of pretrial release or incarceration.

Another crime

The violation can be a separate offense that results in additional charges, such as tampering with an ankle monitor, escaping from custody, failing to appear in court, or violating a no-contact order.

Cancel bail

For those on bail, a breach will generally result in an immediate arrest and haul back to court. The judge will likely revoke bail, and you will await trial in jail.

Violation of probation or parole

If your probation is conditional upon compliance with house arrest, a violation may result in the cancellation of probation or changing of terms of your probation. An appeal often means you will serve a suspended prison sentence. Similarly, a parole violation can send you back to prison to serve the remainder of your sentence.


House arrest is usual in the US for first non-violent offenses as an alternative to prison time, and that helps the country save money and space in prisons. However, all house arrest sentences have strict conditions that should get fulfilled, or the offender will have to serve the remainder of the sentence behind bars.


Do I need a lawyer if I violate house arrest?

Penalties for breaking house arrest can be severe and have long-term consequences. An experienced criminal defense attorney can represent you in court if you have violated the terms of your house arrest agreement and are facing additional impacts.

How will the authorities know that I am at home?

House arrests are issued with an electronic monitoring device placed on the ankle. It uses GPS to track the location and movement of the arrestee. The device is monitored by the local police department or a third-party provider that reports to the police, court, or probation officer. The device tracks the wearer’s every move and can also detect if it has been tampered with, removed, or damaged.

What is the advantage of house arrest?

Alternative sentences, such as house arrest, are a way to divert first-time offenders from prisons and jails. It leaves more room in these facilities for more violent repeat offenders who would not be candidates for house arrest.

How do I know if house arrest is an option for me?

Ask your criminal defense attorney or public defender if house arrest is an option and if it is a good option for you. Your attorney can help you make a compelling case to a judge, prosecutor, or parole board about why home detention is appropriate in your case.