When issuing a criminal sentence, a judge has a lot of discretion to impose penalties that are appropriate to the criminal activity. The judge may have various sentencing options in a trial, some of them traditional, and some alternative.

Traditional sentences may include jail time for misdemeanors, or prison time for certain types of felonies. One type of alternative sentence option is community service.

What is Community Service?

In criminal law, community service refers to a form of alternative sentencing to benefit the community at large. The benefit to the community is to compensate it for the criminal activity or any harm done to it.

The object of community service is to provide the community with needed work and in some cases, alternatives to jail.

What are Some Types of Community Service?

Community service varies depending on the jurisdiction and what the judge wants the offender to do. Some types of community service involve:

  • Picking up trash;
  • Working with a non-profit agency;
  • Cleaning up graffiti;
  • Assisting people at a nursing home;
  • Giving lectures or teaching about the offender’s criminal act; and
  • Various other types of service or activities.

Some of these service activities may take place in a group setting, and often take place on weekends. The times and places of the activities may be determined depending on the case involved.

Will I Have Another Punishment in Addition to the Community Service?

It is possible a judge will sentence an offender to more than just community service. As mentioned, a judge may sometimes consider a mix of traditional and alternative sentencing options, depending on the case and the crime involved. Other types of punishment may include:

  • Probation;
  • Restitution;
  • Fines;
  • Loss of driving privileges; and/or
  • Loss of the right to own a firearm.

Sentencing may depend on the severity of the crime, whether the person was a repeat or habitual offender, and the amount of property damage involved (if any).

Is Community Service the Same as a Diversion Program?

diversion program a different type of sentencing option. With a diversion program, the judge may allow a defendant to undergo an alternative sentence option instead of jail. This option is usually offered prior to trial for criminal charges relating to drugs, alcohol or domestic violence.

Instead of helping the community, the diversion program focuses on rehabilitating the offender. Diversion programs are commonly offered for first-time offenders and juvenile offenders.

What Happens If I Don’t Complete the Community Service?

To receive community service, the offender’s original sentence is suspended. This means the offender may have been sentenced to jail time. If the offender does not complete community service, the original sentence may sometimes be imposed.

Do I Need an Attorney Regarding My Community Service?

Community service options may differ from case to case, and each state may also have its own rules. You may need to contact a criminal defense lawyer regarding possible community service. You should also talk to an attorney if your community service wasn’t completed, or if you need assistance with other similar issues.