Incarcerated at Home: Are Home Prisoners Allowed to Use Gadgets?

Although technology is evolving at a speed that U.S. laws can’t seem to catch up with, current measures allow law enforcement to rein in cybercrime.

America’s 50 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have their respective computer crime laws.  

Due to the variety of computer and internet crimes, penalties also vary depending on the severity of the case. Some offenders may only need to pay fines. Meanwhile, others might need to settle retribution besides undergoing probation or incarceration.

Probation is a legal alternative to a jail or prison sentence that judges use when they believe that offenders can reform their ways through community supervision.

Individuals on probation have court-ordered conditions to follow, one of which may be home incarceration or house arrest. 

Serving under home detention requires being subject to location monitoring, typically through an ankle bracelet. Learn more about how courts decide who gets home confinement by reading this article.

Will a probation sentence limit one’s gadget use? What types of restrictions will convicted computer law offenders experience while on house arrest?

This article will discuss whether offenders in home detention can use gadgets and the general rules they must comply with.

House Arrest Conditions That Determine Tech Usage

The law mainly puts computer use restrictions on individuals with sex offense convictions. These violations can include child pornography and other forms of child sexual exploitation.

However, the court may also prevent or restrict the use of internet-connected devices for the following convictions:

  • Hacking

o   Trespassing a computer system or network manipulation to access private information

o   Stealing or corrupting confidential data

o   Interfering with internet servers to prevent people’s access

  • Terrorism

o   Sending messages with harmful threats toward a government or its citizenry

o   Developing software that can trigger a dangerous action

  • Securities and credit card fraud
  • Online gambling
  • Counterfeiting
  • Identity theft
  • Cyberstalking
  • Software and recording piracy

Possible Probation Terms

The judge will set terms according to the circumstances of the computer or internet law violation and local regulations. 

More serious offenses can require lifetime bans on the ownership and use of digital media and electronic devices that receive and store data. 

Meanwhile, other cases may result in having limited access and getting the probation officer’s approval before using gadgets with internet connectivity.

Probationers with computer and internet-related violations must also be ready for the probation officer’s periodic or random device and computer checks. 

At the start of the probation period, the supervising officer will install tracking software on the probationer’s computer and devices and conduct checks for prohibited files or online activities. 

A manual investigation is necessary to cross-examine results from software tracking software.

General Rules for Home Incarceration

The eligibility criteria for probation and house arrest will differ from one state to another. However, probationers will typically have to comply with the following home detention terms: 

  • Consistently wear an ankle monitor.
  • Follow curfew hours or the set time for being at home.
  • Limit trips outside the home to places with court permission: school, workplace, hospital or clinic, court, attorney’s office. 
  • Avoid making unscheduled trips without the probation officer’s approval.
  • Consent to regular and random visits by the supervising officer, including being present to answer the officer’s phone calls
  • Undergo drug and alcohol tests when necessary.

In some cases, the court may prohibit the probation from going within a certain radius of a victim or alleged victim’s residence. The judge may also restrict the visitors the probationers may welcome at home if their conviction includes a conspiracy crime.


  1. Computer Crime Statutes
  1. Chapter 3: Computer and Internet Restrictions (Probation and Supervised Release Conditions)
  1. House Arrest and Ankle Monitors: How Home Detention Works and When It’s Used

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