If you have been charged with a low-level misdemeanor in San Diego County, you may be eligible for an incarceration alternative, which could include community service. Not everyone is eligible for these opportunities, so speak with an alternative sentencing lawyer if you hope to perform community service as part of your sentence. Before you request community service as part of your sentence, you should first learn how it works and what you will be expected to do during your work assignment.
How Community Service Works
Community service is an alternative sentencing program, meaning it is a criminal sentence that allows individuals to avoid incarceration while still paying for their crime. Some misdemeanors like DUI now require community service as a sentence, while it can be used as an optional penalty for other offenses. Defense lawyers can sometimes negotiate plea bargains for their clients to perform community service as a sentence for misdemeanor offenses such as petty theft, minor vandalism, battery, trespassing, and minor in possession of alcohol.
What Counts as Community Service in California?
How your community service time is spent depends on which of the two types of work you are assigned to perform. Public work service is run by the probation department and typically involves picking up trash or cleaning graffiti. Volunteer work is where the defendant picks any non-profit agency and volunteers time to whatever the agency needs.
For people with physical impairments preventing them or limiting their ability to do physical labor, public work service days can be exchanged for volunteer hours.
How Many Hours of Community Service Will I Have to Perform?
The amount of public work or volunteer hours depends on how many hours the court has ordered or how much time was agreed upon in the plea agreement. Often even when the court’s sentencing guidelines require a set number of public work service days, the amount is negotiable, and sometimes your lawyer can have them substituted for counseling or rehabilitation.
Can I Perform Community Service as Part of My Sentence?
As San Diego County jails have become dangerously overcrowded, the courts increasingly look to alternatives to custody like probation, house arrest, rehabilitation programs, diversion, counseling, and community service. Prosecutors and judges can sometimes be persuaded to use these alternatives to jail better serve the community and the client.
Court-Ordered Community Service in California May Cost You
If you are sentenced to community service in San Diego, you will likely have to pay additional fees on top of the fines you were ordered to pay. Unfortunately, many community service programs charge administrative and application fees. Fulfilling your community service obligations is mandatory, and you must pay the fee to complete your community service. In some cases, you may be eligible for a free or discounted fee.
Can You Perform Community Service to Pay Off Court-Ordered Fines in California?
Yes, if the fines could present a hardship on you or your family, the court can choose to sentence you to community service in place of all or part of your fine. You may still be required to pay an administrative fee for the community service, however, this may be waived or reduced if you cannot afford to pay it.
What Happens if You Don’t Complete Community Service in California?
One of the things many people fail to understand about community service is that failing to complete your service or paying the mandatory administrative fees is considered a violation of a court order, which can result in your being required to appear in court. If you cannot provide a reasonable defense for your actions, you may be sentenced to jail time, probation, or both. Your attorney can help defend you at this hearing and may help you avoid additional sentencing by showing a valid reason for your missed community service hours, such as a medical emergency.
If you have been accused of a misdemeanor offense, such as DUI, and are interested in learning more about court-ordered community service in San Diego, California, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with criminal defense attorney Peter M. Liss.