Sentencing Alternatives to Jail Time in Florida

In the many years of our extensive experience as Tampa criminal defense lawyers, we’ve learned that the first question and the primary concern of people facing criminal charges is what is going to happen to them at the end of the case. Will they go to jail? Will they get probation? Can they beat the charges? 


At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa, we concentrate on delivering the best, most effective criminal defense to whatever charges police and prosecutors file against you. We want you to be confident in our ability to ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty by legally obtained evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.  



Understand Your Trial Rights First 


Every criminal defendant must understand that they have the right to a fair trial before an unbiased jury and that our lawyers will use our long experience and considerable skill to win our clients an acquittal or to have the charges dismissed. 


Whether a defendant chooses to accept a negotiated plea in exchange for a sentence of some sort rather than risk going to trial is entirely up to them. Your defense attorney can counsel and advise you about all the available possible sentences, including the details of how the disposition of the case would affect your life, and what consequences would result, both negative and positive. This blog post explains many of the types of sentences that might be imposed as an alternative to jail or prison. 


Even after the trial, if a judge is going to impose a sentence, these are among the available options unless a conviction occurs in relation to a crime carrying a mandatory minimum sentence that the judge must follow.   


Probation — Supervised or Unsupervised 


In most cases involving a first offender who was found guilty or is entering into a negotiated plea admitting to an offense, judges will impose a sentence of probation. Probation is a status the defendant remains in until the length of time the judge imposed for probation expires.  


During the time a probationer is in this status, they remain at liberty, living and working in the community much as they did before. However, the conditions of the probation restrict the person from certain conduct and requires  them to perform other obligations.  


Supervised Probation 


Often, the person on probation must report to a probation officer regularly and update them on their status, job or address changes, or other significant events that occur. The probation officer keeps track of their employment, any contacts with law enforcement, any drug use or, if relevant, any alcohol use, community service performed, counseling attended, restitution payments, etc. Probationers are not permitted to possess firearms and may not leave certain jurisdictions without permission.  


If a probationer misses a meeting without notice or reasonable explanation, or if any other evidence that the probationer is not keeping the peace and being of good behavior, the probation officer can file a notice of violation and have an arrest warrant issued.  


**Violations of probation involve a court hearing at which a judge who sustains the violation can order the probationer to serve the previously imposed period in jail or prison.  This applies to both supervised and unsupervised probation. 


Unsupervised Probation 


If the judge orders unsupervised probation, only likely in low-level misdemeanors with first offenders, the probationer need not report to a probation officer. But the other conditions set by the court must abide. 


Day (Daily) Reporting Probation 


Day Reporting is a heightened level of supervised probation for defendants who are at high risk of failing due to too little structure or too much freedom. In this probationary status, the probationer reports to a probation officer or other law enforcement agency daily.  


Community Control (House Arrest – Work Release) 


Community Control can include house arrest or home confinement, or other community-based alternative sentences. The house arrest process is a sentence in which the person is technically confined to their own home where their presence is monitored by an electronic transmitter attached to their ankle. When the ankle bracelet is more than a set distance away from the base unit installed in your house, an alert sounds at the control center where probation officers will be notified that the person has left their home without authorization.  


There are various degrees of freedom allowed to community control participants, often reducing restrictions as the offender demonstrates more success or rehabilitation. 


This sentence allows the confined person to go to work, school, religious services, counseling, drug treatment programs, medical appointments, and other places if the Community Control officials authorize it in advance.  


Like other “less than jail” sentences, violation of Community Control rules can lead to a violation and cause the person to be moved from home to prison.  


Pretrial Intervention Drug Court (Drug Court) 


Incarcerating criminal offenders whose root problem is drug addiction has been a failed strategy. What has been successful in achieving rehabilitation and reducing repeat criminal offenses (recidivism) are drug court programs. The Pretrial Intervention Drug Court Program is the name of our drug court in Hillsborough County. 


Only the prosecution determines who is admitted to the program. It’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how drug court works in their county and who has the respect of the prosecutors they deal with regularly. In Tampa and throughout Hillsborough County, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law has had success convincing prosecutors to allow our clients to seek recovery through the drug court. 


While participation in the drug court program is demanding, requiring random drug screening, rehabilitation programs with group and individual therapy, and regular court appearances for the judge to review your progress, completing the program will earn you dismissal of the charge for which you were being prosecuted. 


Mental Health Court 


The Mental Health Court accepts cases in which the defendant’s illegal conduct is contributed to by some mental illness or disorder that requires treatment, counseling, and rehabilitative work. Rather than sending people with mental illness to jail or prison where they receive no beneficial treatment, and often become more ill, this program redirects them to resources and facilities well equipped to stabilize their illness. Often, completing the mental health protocol in Mental Health Court will result in the dismissal of nonviolent charges. 


Veterans Court 


Men and women who served in the U.S. armed services often suffer injuries leaving invisible scars. Some may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental illness symptoms like depression, substance use disorder (SUD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and behavioral patterns related to their service. Veterans court is operated by a court where qualified experts who are veterans themselves interact with the alleged offender to discover their needs and refer them to the services the defendants need to address their problems. 


Again, successful completion of this program results in the dismissal of the charges which brought them into the criminal justice system. 


There is much more to learn about these and other alternative sentences that could be imposed in your criminal prosecution. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about all the possibilities available.  


Learn More > The Top 3 Criminal Charges that an Experienced Defense Attorney Can Help Fight 


Tampa Bay Criminal Defense  


To get the information you need about alternative sentences, call Tampa’s experienced criminal defense lawyers, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law at 813-280-1244.  

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