What Is House Arrest? - Definitions, Laws & Rules

Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

This lesson will teach you what constitutes house arrest. You will review the definition of house arrest, study the laws of house arrest and then examine some typical house arrest rules.


What do Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton have in common? Well, aside from their early 2000s celebrity status and colorful arrest records, both have served house arrest while waiting for their trials to start.

House arrest is an alternative penalty to prison. Under house arrest, one must serve their sentence being confined to their home. House arrest, also referred to as 'electronic monitoring,' is done by the use of an electronic monitoring device that is placed directly on the offender. The device is typically placed on the ankle and cannot easily be removed. It sends GPS signals which are monitored at all times. If the offender fails to stay in the home or does not adhere to the terms of the house arrest, they will be in violation of the house arrest; as a result, the offender may be sent to prison to serve the rest of their term.


Every state has different laws regarding the use of house arrest. Usually, house arrest is used for juvenile offenders or repeat offenders. House arrest may also be used when there is overcrowding in prisons and there is a need to relieve the strain this puts on the prison system. However, house arrest is never utilized for serious crimes, such as murder or rape.

Most states require that when one is under house arrest, a probation officer oversees the house arrest term. A probation officer is a person who supervises inmates and ensures that they are following the rules of their incarceration. Thus, when one is under house arrest, the probation officer will make sure the offender is adhering to the house arrest terms and staying inside the house.

In addition, the laws of most states require that the offender stay within the house for the entire term of their sentence. There may be exceptions where the offender may be allowed to leave the confines of the house. For instance, the offender may need to attend court or go to a doctor's appointment.

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