December 13, 2017 7:34 am Published by

California Alternative Sentencing Options

There are a variety of different sentences that a judge can impose on a criminal case depending on the facts and circumstances that surround that case. The judge will look at the person’s criminal record and what they specifically did in the current case before he or she passes judgment on a criminal defendant.

However, the truth is that most of the time, the sentence that is imposed by the judge has already been agreed to by the prosecution and defense before the defendant actually pleads guilty to the crime. There are rare circumstances where the judge gets to decide the sentence for a particular defendant, but this is not the normal course of events in San Fernando Valley criminal courts.

This is why it is key to have a criminal defense attorney who has handled similar cases to yours and knows what they are worth and has the skill to negotiate a favorable disposition for you. Taking into account your life and the issues that you have is the first step in deciding what type of alternative sentence might be available to you and one that you can actually deal with.


When we say “alternative sentence” it should be assumed that the sentence in question is an alternative to jail or prison time. Judges can imposed and the parties can agree to the following sentences:

Community Service – The community service office of each courthouse will have a list of court approved community service options for those individuals to complete to satisfy the terms and conditions of their probation. If an individual has an physical limitation, then it is important that their attorney get them light community service so they can avoid further injury and still complete the requirements of the court.

Community service is an alternate sentence to jail, that is not as scary, but can be time consuming and the person who agrees to accept it should be wary that if they do not complete it, they will be facing jail time for the probation violation.

Community Labor – If the judge orders you to do community labor then this is usually a substitute for jail time and if you do not complete it in a timely fashion, then you can expect to be given jail time to satisfy your obligation to the court.

This form of work is usually harder than community service and you can expect to be doing some sort of physical work that requires moving around and actual work. For example, you could be cleaning up a park or beach or doing some other type of physical work.

Fine – If you are ordered to pay a fine, then you should be clear on whether or not a penalty assessment is attached to that fine. As of the writing of this blog, there is a 200% penalty assessment ordered by judges on all fines in Los Angeles and most surrounding counties. As you might guess, this is how the courts make much of their money and they can be ruthless in collecting it and making sure you this alternative sentence obligation to the court.

Diversion Program – This type of resolution involves a defendant either pleading guilty to a crime and their sentencing being put over for a period of time (like a year for example) or the case is just continued for a period of time to permit the defendant to complete some sort of work and stay out of trouble. If the person does what they are suppose to and has no new arrests then the case will be dismissed and the person can move on with their life and avoid a criminal conviction.

Sentence where a Misdemeanor is Earned – Some offenses can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the person’s conduct, the seriousness of what they did and their criminal record. When the case is filed as a felony, it is possible to negotiate with the prosecutors and convince them to give the person a misdemeanor at a future date, if they remain arrest free and complete some sort of agreed upon punishment. This alternative sentence is a good way to earn a misdemeanor and eventually get the case dismissed off your record if you can stay on the straight and narrow.

Cal Trans – This form of punishment is definitely an alternative to jail and is not an easy one to complete. Cal Trans involves those people you see on the freeways doing road work and clean up. This is one of the punishments the prosecutors are most likely to agree to if they originally want jail for the case.

They know this is hard work and that the person has to get up early and typically work a ten hour day. If you are not a hearty person who can do some work, this punishment is not advisable because if you can not complete it, the judge will likely convert it to jail time.


One crucial thing that an alternative sentence can do for you, in addition to keeping you out of jail, is set things up so you can get your case dismissed in the end. This is ultimately the goal in all criminal cases and finding an attorney who knows the different alternative sentences that end in dismissal is crucial to your success in the criminal justice system.

One good alternative sentence is called deferred entry of judgment. In this scenario, you plead guilty to a particular crime and your sentence is put over to a future date in order to allow you to serve out an agreed upon punishment in exchange for a future dismissal.

In this circumstance, when you come back on whatever date was agreed upon by you, your attorney, the prosecutor and judge, if you have done everything your were suppose to, the guilty plea is taken back and a not guilty plea is put in the record and the case is dismissed. This is an alternative sentence that must be negotiated by your attorney and is only available in certain types of crimes and certain types of cases.

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