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Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

Mockaitis Law Group LLC Sept. 26, 2023

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you might be wondering whether you will go to jail. While every case is unique and every judge will work differently, having an attorney on your side can lead to the best outcome possible—and the good news is that there are some alternatives to jail time. If you’ve been charged with a crime in the Chicago area, call me, Romas Mockaitis, at Mockaitis Law Group LLC in Oswego, Illinois.

Types of Alternative Sentencing  

“Alternative sentencing” is defined as any type of sentence except outright incarceration. The benefits of alternative sentencing are many. They help the defendant avoid a prison sentence, which would result in time away from family and important commitments. Alternative sentences also ensure that, by remaining in the community, the defendant is not marked as someone who has been incarcerated, which can lead to social stigma, reduced employment, further stress, and isolation. 

Below are listed several types of alternative sentencing. Your attorney can discuss your options with you and also petition the judge in your case to impose one of these sentences, depending on your crime.


Diversion is the process by which a case is “diverted” out of the criminal court. You can either have your case diverted during pretrial or have a judge, through “deferred adjudication,” abstain from trying the case or imposing a sentence.

Different states have different diversion programs. For example, court supervision is one type of diversion that some Illinois counties offer for those charged with misdemeanors. Instead of convicting you and imposing a sentence, a judge will order a period of supervision in which certain requirements must be met (for example, attendance at counseling or substance abuse treatment). If the conditions are met during the entire period of supervision, the judge will dismiss the charges. Some diversion programs are usually only available to first-time offenders. 

House Arrest  

A sentence of house arrest can be imposed for first-time offenders, those who commit certain nonviolent crimes, or for people for whom prison time would be detrimental to themselves or others (such as those with certain medical conditions or young children). During the duration of your house arrest, you may not leave your home except for certain preapproved reasons (such as for work, medical treatment, religious services, care of minor children, or shopping for necessities) and will wear an electronic monitoring device that will notify the police of your whereabouts.  

Community Service  

Community service is an alternative sentence available to those who have committed certain nonviolent crimes. The nature of the community service can differ—for example, you may clean up litter, give presentations at schools about the dangers of committing your particular offense (such as drunk driving), or assist volunteers at a homeless shelter. 


For certain misdemeanor and felony charges, you may be placed on probation instead of being sent to jail. First, you will receive either a deferred sentence or a suspended sentence. 

In a deferred sentence situation, the judge will wait to impose the sentence until the defendant completes probation, after which the sentence and conviction may be dismissed or the conviction may be lessened in severity.

For a suspended sentence, the judge will impose a sentence but suspend all or part of it in favor of probation. (Depending on whether the judge suspended part of or all of a sentence, the defendant might be ordered to go to jail for a period of time and then complete the rest of the sentence on probation, or the defendant can avoid jail time entirely.) Note that at the end of the probation period for the suspended sentence, you will still have a conviction. 

You will then be placed under either unsupervised or supervised probation. Unsupervised probation is usually reserved for misdemeanors that are less serious. In Illinois, supervised probation requires reporting to a probation officer who will set probation conditions, such as regularly meeting with the probation officer, drug testing, maintaining employment, counseling, or substance abuse treatment. (You may need to follow these requirements during unsupervised probation as well, but you will not have to report to a probation officer.) Probation can be revoked and you can be incarcerated if you do not follow all of the necessary conditions or maintain good behavior (such as by avoiding another arrest).

Many offenses make you ineligible for probation in Illinois, such as first-degree murder or attempted first-degree murder, criminal sexual assault, possession of child pornography, residential burglary, vehicular hijacking, controlled substance trafficking, and unlawful purchase of a firearm (to name a few).

Understand Your Options  

Just as every case is different, I know that every client has specific needs, which I work zealously to fulfill. My decade serving as an Assistant State’s Attorney for DuPage County, during which I worked over 300 trials, will ensure that you receive expert advice, attention, and support. Call me at Mockaitis Law Group LLC, located in Oswego, Illinois, and also serving clients throughout Kendall, Kane, DuPage, Grundy, and DeKalb counties.