Alternative Sentencing

When you have been convicted of a crime in the D.C./Virginia metro area or anywhere really, judges have the discretion to sentence you to whatever the law allows. According to the classification of the crime as a misdemeanor or felony, there is a range of incarceration. The judge can sentence you anywhere within that range.

With a skilled criminal defense attorney, however, you may be able to get the least amount of punishment for your conviction, or, alternatively, you may be able to receive some kind of alternative sentencing to avoid all or most of any jail or prison sentence. 

S.L. England has been practicing criminal defense and DUI defense in the D.C./Virginia metro area for years and knows the courts, the court procedures, the sentencing guidelines, and many other things that will prove helpful in your defense. He has built relationships and has the resources to pursue cases with integrity and persistence. He is committed to getting you the best possible outcome in your criminal case, and for many of you, that may be an alternative sentencing program.

Here is an overview of what alternative sentencing could entail. If you still have questions or want to get started on a strong defense, contact S.L. England at 202-489-0720 today.


Most alternative sentencing programs are reserved for first-time offenders or youth offenders but not always. These programs are meant to help alleged offenders get back on their feet and refrain from committing another crime in the future.

Many crimes, like drug crimes, DUI, and theft may qualify. Other crimes, like violent crimes or domestic violence, will probably not qualify.


In D.C., you may be eligible for alternative sentencing if the criminal conviction is or first or if you are a youth.


For first-time offenders in D.C., alternative sentencing is usually a diversion program. This may include, for example:

  • deferred prosecution, where the charges can be dismissed after the defendant fulfills certain requirements set out in a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA); or
  • deferred sentencing, where the defendant enters a guilty plea in exchange for delayed sentencing – if the defendant satisfactorily fulfills certain requirements per a deferred sentencing agreement (DSA), the guilty plea is withdrawn and the case dismissed, but if the requirements are not satisfied, the case proceeds to sentencing.

The terms of these agreements usually involve drug testing, community service, treatment programs, among other terms specific to your case. 

Eligibility is dependent on but not limited to factors like:

  • drug test screening,
  • criminal history, and
  • mental health.


Sentencing alternatives for youth offenders are outlined under D.C. Code § 24–903. According to this statute, a person is a youth offender if he or she is between the ages of 15 and 24 years of age. Alternative sentencing for youth offenders primarily involves probation, which will include community services not less than 90 hours.

Factors that help a judge determine if a youth offender qualify for the alternative sentencing include but are not limited to:

  • age at the time of the offense;
  • nature of the offense (e.g., extent of the youth offender’s role);
  • previous alternative sentencing;
  • compliance with the rules during pretrial release;
  • current participation in rehabilitative District programs;
  • previous contacts with the juvenile and criminal justice systems;
  • family and community circumstances at the time of the offense;
  • ability to appreciate the risks and consequences of his or her conduct;
  • reports of physical, mental, or psychiatric examinations of the youth offender conducted by licensed health care professionals;
  • use of unlawful controlled substances;
  • capacity for rehabilitation; and
  • oral or written statement by a victim or family member of the victim of the offense. 


State-wide, alternative sentencing in Virginia often means a diversion program or some type of treatment program, like drug court. Drug courts are run in collaboration among judges, probation officers, the Commonwealth Attorney, and the sheriff’s department. Diversion programs are similar to what is offered in D.C. – defendants must complete certain terms and conditions of an agreement, and f they do, then the case is dismissed.

Virginia also has what is called detention and diversion, which is run by the Department of Corrections and is administered to something akin to a boot camp in the detention center and a place to learn skills in the diversion center. 

In Virginia, there are many local programs as well. In Alexandria specifically, persons convicted of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies can be placed on probation in lieu of a jail sentence. Participants of Alexandria’s probation alternative sentencing program will – at a minimum – have to have:

  • office visits with Probation Officer;
  • random drug/alcohol testing;
  • home and employment verification;
  • supervised payment of court costs, fines and/or restitution; and
  • perform Community Service.

The program could also include participation in:

  • Substance Abuse Education,
  • Substance Abuse Treatment/Counseling,
  • Shoplifters’ Program,
  • Anger Management Classes,
  • Batterers Intervention Classes, and
  • Mental Health evaluation and any necessary treatment.

These programs are customized and based on the crime and person convicted of it.


Being convicted of a criminal offense in D.C. or Virginia often carries a sentence of incarceration. For persons who have limited or no criminal record, you may qualify for alternative sentencing. Contact S.L. England to first get the best defense against any charges laid against you, and then to make sure – if a conviction is likely – you get the best alternative sentence for your unique situation. 

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