Can I serve my jail time at home?

The possibility of jail time is an anxiety-producing thought for many people. Accordingly, a common question I receive from clients is whether they’re eligible for house arrest – meaning, can they serve their jail sentences at home? The answer, generally, is that it depends on a number of things.

Jail v. Prison Sentences

To be potentially eligible for house arrest in Wisconsin, a defendant needs to be sentenced to jail, not prison. Prison sentences in Wisconsin cannot be served via electronic monitoring.

Sheriff’s Decision

By and large, it is the county sheriff’s decision whether to release an inmate on electronic monitoring. Wisconsin statute 301.135 grants the sheriff’s department the authority to contract for electronic monitoring, to establish electronic monitoring eligibility criteria, and to charge fees for such a service. Case law prohibits Wisconsin judges from forbidding the use of electronic monitoring in lieu of Huber privileges for offenders. (See State v. Schell, 2003 WI App 78, 261 Wis. 2d 841, 661 N.W.2d 503, 02-1394.). Thus, when defendants are sentenced, the judge cannot grant them electronic monitoring through the Sheriff’s Office–only an application to the relevant county sheriff’s office will allow for that. (Some counties do have court-funded alternatives to incarceration exist, though those are rare).


Different counties in Wisconsin have different rules for who qualifies for electronic monitoring. Some counties don’t have the ability at all, or have very limited resources to provide such an opportunity. Some counties will not allow electronic monitoring for particular types of crimes (violent offenses, OWIs, etc.). Some counties need a defendant to have a “hard” or “land” telephone line, some can work with a cellular phone. Almost every county will require a defendant to pass a drug test prior to being released on electronic monitoring, and all counties require a defendant to be eligible for Huber (work release) privileges before they can be eligible for electronic monitoring. Offenders with longer jail sentences tend to be prioritized for electronic monitoring over offenders with shorter sentences, and in some counties, inmates whose sentences are under 30 days will be not be considered for EM. Prior bad behavior in a jail setting can bar an inmate from EM eligibility for a period of his sentence, or for the entire length of it.

If you are facing jail time in Wisconsin, and have questions about the availability of electronic monitoring, contact a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney today.