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Alternatives to Incarceration in Pinellas County

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has established guidelines for the electronic monitoring of certain offenders who have been released from custody pending trial, or sentenced to serve time in jail following resolution of their case(s). The Alternative Sentencing Unit (ASU) is responsible for evaluating and supervising those who qualfiy. These programs allow low risk offenders, who meet certain eligibility requirements, to serve their jail sentences at home. In determining whether an applicant is low risk, ASU will conduct an investigation of the applicant's criminal history, prior convictions, and history (if any) of prior incarcerations (including any behavioral issues during incarceration).

This post presents an overview of the available programs, eligibility requirements, and factors which would exclude an applicant from being accepted. As always, specific questions should be directed to an experienced St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or Tampa area criminal defense attorney.

  • Pre-trial Release Program

In Florida, an accused person is entitled to a bond unless the charged offense is a capital or life felony and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great. Of course, a person may also be held without bond if he or she is alleged to have violated his or her probation. A person on probation enjoys the protection of fewer constitutional rights than a person who has not yet entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendre, or who has been found guilty by a judge or jury after a trial.

In situations where the offense is of a particularly serious nature, where the court has concerns about victim contact, or where the accused presents a possible flight risk, the use of an electronic monitor, through the pre-trial release program, presents a viable alternative to imposing a bond amount that the accused may not be able to post. Under this program, defendants wear a GPS device, 24 hours a day, and are required to contact pre-trial services on a weekly basis to be informed of upcoming court dates.

  • Electronic Monitoring Program

This program is for persons who have been sentenced on misdemeanor and felonies. Those approved for the program are low risk offenders who are able to satisfy their jail sentence through home detention, as an alternative to physical confinement in a jail cell. Satellite and computer mapping data track the person's movements 24 hours per day. Often times, the person will be permitted to leave the house for work purposes, and will be required to return to his or her residence once the work obligation is complete. Needless to say, this presents are very viable option for those who would otherwise lose their job (by virtue of being incarcerated). The person's sentence must be no less than 30 days and no more than 365 days. The cost of the program is roughly $7.00 per day.

  • Day Reporting Program

This program is for sentenced non-violent felony and misdemeanor offenders. It is a jail diversion program that targets low risk offenders to perform community service, at various non-profit agencies within St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and surrounding areas, in lieu of serving jail time. The person must work at least 8 hours per week and each full day worked amounts to one day off the jail sentence. The day reporting program serves 24 county and city work sites.

To qualify, the offender's court ordered sentence must not exceed 60 days; the offender cannot have a prior criminal record of any violent offense, cannot have a prior conviction of sexual battery (in violation of Florida Statutes section 794.011), or any other sex offense(s) (specified in Florida Statutes section 800.04).

  • Disqualifying Factors

The following conditions will disqualify an offender from being accepted into the electronic or day reporting program:

  1. criminal history (potentially) based on a review of several criminal data bases (NCIC, FCIC, CJIS, ACISS);
  2. sexual criminal charges or convictions (pursuant to Florida Statutes section 800);
  3. violent criminal charges or convictions (pursuant to Florida Statutes section 775.084);
  4. length of sentence (preferably no more than 14 days remaining on the jail sentence);
  5. jail disciplinary reports;
  6. failures to appear, violations of probation, or contempt of court proceedings within 12 months preceding incarceration;
  7. previous absconding from any alternative sentencing program;
  8. material misrepresentations made during the interview/screening process, including ties to the community, employment, and or residence;
  9. pending open charges or a history of habitual offenses; or
  10. residence outside the Tampa Bay area;
  • Additional Information You Should Be Aware Of

If the defendant is in custody, the judge grants the defendant's release on electronic monitoring, and the defendant is not disqualified by Florida Statutes, the defendant will be instructed to report to the Alternative Sentencing Unit upon his or her release from custody to be equipped with the electronic monitoring equipment.

If the defendant is not already in jail, is not remanded at sentencing, and is not disqualified by Florida Statutes, he or she will report to the alternative sentencing unit and will be scheduled for the next available orientation.

Alternative sentencing unit staff will review each of their assigned offender locations/whereabouts daily. Approved activity verification, such as curfews and restrictions to or from certain areas, are also reviewed on a daily basis. Serious violations will be reported to the judge who, in his or her discretion, may revoke ROR and issue a capias.

I have had numerous clients over the years who have been given the opportunity to serve their jail sentences in these programs, which has allowed them to keep their businesses, their jobs, and to spend time with their spouses and children. Many of these clients have never been re-arrested.

As always, I hope this post was helpful. If you have additional questions about the jail alternative programs outlined herein, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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