Although the judicial system may seem strict to Tennessee residents who are facing various types of criminal charges, there are situations that allow for alternative sentencing options. In these cases, judges may be able to offer less severe penalties instead of incarceration, especially if the offenses in question are minor or involve defendants who do not have prior criminal histories. Even in dealing with repeat offenders, judges may offer alternatives to those who demonstrate a desire to turn their lives around.
Deferred adjudication is an example of allowing a defendant to make a positive change. This might involve the dismissal of charges upon successful completion of a counseling program related to drug or alcohol offenses. Other examples could include a probation period for a first-time offender. Another option used by many courts is community service. Instead of idling away in a jail, a defendant can do something productive for a community organization as a way of paying for their crime. Restitution might be ordered, requiring a defendant to compensate those who have suffered damages. Fines are similar but involve payment to the government.
A suspended sentence is another alternative to jail time, an option that might be used in a case that doesn't involve a severe offense. If the suspended sentence is unconditional, there are no further requirements of the defendant. In a conditional suspended sentence, however, a defendant may be required to abstain from further criminal activity. In this case, a violation of terms could lead to the sentence being reinstated.
An individual who has a prior criminal history might seek an alternative sentence through a plea negotiation. Legal support might be important so that conditions of an alternative sentence are clearly understood prior to a defendant's acceptance of the terms. A lawyer might emphasize the financial benefits of alternative sentencing to encourage cooperation from prosecutors.