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Recent Changes in Criminal Defense in Ventura County

By now a lot of people have heard or dealt with the changes that have occurred in Ventura County’s criminal justice system. The biggest change is the seemingly permanent closure of the work furlough program. Work furlough is a jail substitute where people who were convicted of crimes and sentenced to jail could serve their time at a facility located at the Camarillo airport. The location was supervised by probation officers and allowed “inmates” to leave during the day for work and return to the facility at night, thereby getting day for day credit for their stay in the program and avoiding jail.

When furlough was permanently closed, another change occurred. The sheriff’s department took over the supervision of electronic monitoring (EMS) in Ventura County. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: There is no electronic monitoring in Ventura County, right? Well, this was not exactly true. It did exist. It was just very rare that anyone was ever approved for it. Normally it required that someone be wheelchair bound or requiring of medical services that were outside the capacity of the County jail.

Since the sheriff started to supervise EMS, the system has been overwhelmed with requests. There has been a multi-week backlog of applications. However, low level offenders are now being accepted for EMS in Ventura County. Theft offenders, first or second offense DUI’s and other cases are getting approved. People here in Ventura are even learning what we learned years ago in Los Angeles: You can convert your fine to jail time and pay your fine off while you sit on your couch and watch T.V. in the privacy of your own home.

There are still significant limitations on EMS in Ventura. First, you must live in the County. No serious or violent offenses will be approved. Excess criminality will be another reason for denial as will multiple alcohol or drug related contacts with the law and prior incidents of violence such as assault with a deadly weapon or battery. This is true even if the violence was not part of the present case. Any failures to appear in court will disqualify us. And finally, EMS is optional and paid for by the defendant.

The decision to close furlough was a really hard hit for the defense. Some of us have been successful with offering other substitutions to jail in Ventura County. City jail in Los Angeles County is another option for many clients who are able to pay for it. It is expensive and still involves custody. Some city jails even offer furlough programs and work release. Work release is where we check into a jail facility during the day and perform labor like washing cars or mopping floors. At the end of the day of work we get to go home and sleep in our own beds. Other substitutes to jail include private electronic monitoring paid for by the client and provided by Sentinel Corporation. Sentinel is the contract holder for Los Angeles County. They offer private EMS, GPS, alcohol testing and even reporting to probation or law enforcement, if required. These services can be arranged pre or post conviction.

Lastly, I have been successful for some years setting up my clients in private work furlough programs. Years ago when Los Angeles County closed its furlough program (without notice to inmates or lawyers) we had to scramble to find alternatives. Working Alternatives was one of my first finds. In South LA County and Orange County they offer several housing locations on a pay to stay basis, in addition to contracts with the Department of Corrections and Bureau of Prisons. Another, even larger provider of inmate supervision is Behavioral Systems Southwest. The offer parole supervision to the BOP and treatment and housing programs like work furlough for the CDC and the BOP. They too offer pay to stay furlough. It’s not cheap, but it sure beats county jail.

If you have questions about jail alternatives or any other criminal defense or DUI case, call an expert:

Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or

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