WIth prisons being as expensive as they are to run, there is a strong public interest in seeing fewer criminals spend time behind bars. Non-violent and first-time offenders are often radicalized in prison, so finding means of alternative sentencing is one way that reduces the cost of prisons while also helping to rehabilitate criminals before they go too far down the path of lawlessness.

To see how these work, we’ll first look at a number of different alternative sentencing options to see what programs Tampa has to offer. From there we’ll look at who is eligible for the various alternative sentencing programs, as well as what factors would disqualify someone from being able to access alternative sentencing.

What Is Alternative Sentencing?

Alternative sentencing can refer to a number of different things. We’ll look at some examples in just a moment. But in short, an alternative sentencing program is a program that is designed to help offenders improve their lives without having to be sent to prison. It’s a way to keep low-risk offenders in the community so that they can develop and grow into responsible citizens without further burdening the prison system.

Alternative sentences are quite common. For example, receiving a fine instead of time behind bars could be considered an alternative sentence. However, alternative sentencing programs are a little different. A fine is just a part of the legal system that is an alternative to prison, what we are discussing are programs that have been designed as alternatives.

Examples of alternative sentencing programs include:

  • Drug Court: Drug court is designed to help those who are suffering from addiction to overcome their sickness so they can maintain a normal, healthy life. Things like drug testing, monitoring, case reviews, support groups, and personal counseling are all regular parts of the program with the express purpose of helping people overcome their addiction so they avoid any future drug crime charges.
  • Mental Health Court: Mental health court is a setting where legal experts and mental health experts work together with the goal of getting treatment and counseling to a mentally ill individual charged with a crime. Completion of the terms and conditions laid out in mental health court will often result in the dismissal of charges.
  • Day Reporting: This requires an individual to check in with a professional on a daily basis to ensure they are handling themselves legally.
  • Veterans Court: Veterans go through a lot of hardships when serving their country and these take a toll. Veterans court’s purpose is to help veterans dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues get the support they need to live in the community they fought for without falling on the wrong side of the law.
  • Community Control: Community control is a catch-all term that refers to things like electronic monitoring, work release programs, probation, and house arrest. Rather than spend time behind bars, this limits your movements and holds you accountable while still allowing you to be a (sometimes marginal) part of the community. It is common to have to wear a GPS monitoring device or to report your schedule and expected daily activity for the coming week.

Who Is Eligible for Alternative Sentencing?

Eligibility is going to be determined by a number of factors. The most obvious factor is in regards to the specific function of a program. Somebody accused of domestic abuse is unlikely to be eligible for drug court. Likewise, non-veterans will not be able to make use of veterans court and those without mental illness won’t qualify for mental health court.

It is more likely that somebody gets accepted into an alternative sentencing program when their offense is a non-violent misdemeanor. Often alternative sentencing programs won’t accept repeat offenders. This is because the idea is that people who are first-time offenders have landed where they are because of poor decisions rather than a history of criminal behavior. So rather than send them to prison, these programs can help to educate and deal with the problematic factors that caused them to offend in the first place.

For the best chance of getting into an alternative sentencing program, you should work with an attorney that can eloquently argue to the court why you should be accepted into an alternative sentencing program rather than prison.

What Disqualifies You From Alternative Sentencing?

There are a number of factors that could disqualify you from being eligible for alternative sentencing in Tampa, Florida. Apart from those mentioned above, such as non-veterans being disqualified from veteran’s court, factors that could disqualify you include:

  • A criminal history that shows this is not an aberration but a cycle of behavior
  • Sexual criminal charges
  • Violent criminal charges
  • A refusal to accept the terms of the alternative sentencing program
  • A failure to live up to the requirements of the alternative sentencing program
  • Lying about your past in order to enhance your chances of getting into an alternative sentencing program

Apart from not being eligible for alternative sentencing programs, it is very easy to fail out of them. For example, if you get caught with narcotics on your person while working through drug court then you will fail out and are highly likely to face jail time for the original crime as well as the newer possession charges that you’ve probably acquired.

How Do I Get Into an Alternative Sentencing Program in Tampa?

The best way to get into an alternative sentencing program is to hire an attorney, like Patrick B. Courtney, that will work with you to determine if you’re eligible. Your attorney will then use the evidence they’ve gathered about the case and you as a person to argue to the courts why it is better for both you and the state that you are given a chance to work through an alternative sentencing program.

The courts will hear the argument and it will be left to them to make the final decision. But the best way to achieve this end is through an experienced attorney that can present your argument to the courts. If you’re facing charges that leave you eligible for alternative sentencing programs, reach out to Patrick B. Courtney today to see what can be done to help.