When convicted of a DUI, an individual is punishable by a number of severe penalties. They could be facing fines, months in jail, license suspensions, and a stained driving record. One way to reduce these penalties is through court-mandated community service.
Typically, a person volunteers at a non-profit organization for a period of time in order to satisfy the requirements of their sentence. In some cases, a criminal defense attorney may work to lessen the consequences of community hours. In others, it may be a required part of sentencing. To learn more about the community service process, the criminal defense team at Ktenas Law has answered some common questions here.
When a DUI Conviction Will Require Community Service
Court-ordered community service is an alternative penalty for various criminal activities. It is often used to substitute jail time or as a condition of probation. The convicted party may lessen or avoid potential jail time and hefty fines with community service, but not in all situations. The imposition of community service may be used in addition to, or in lieu of other penalties. Offenders are also still subject to additional court fees and loss of driving privileges.
Here we specifically review the penalty for community service hours. The length of time required varies depending on the type of DUI conviction.
First-time DUI Conviction
First-time offenders are not usually ordered to complete community service hours except in the following cases:
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over 0.16% - 100 hours
The offender had a passenger under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offense - 25 days of community service in an organization that benefits children
Second-time DUI Offenders
Second-offense convictions are punishable by a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail or 240 hours of community service.
Aggravated DUI Convictions
An aggravated DUI is punishable by a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail or 480 hours of community service. An aggravated DUI is an enhanced DUI conviction that is the result of the presence of other forms of negligence or criminal offenses. Examples include:
DUI that resulted in bodily harm, permanent disability, or death
Second or subsequent DUI with a passenger under the age of 16
DUI in a school zone that resulted in an accident
DUI without a license or registration
If you are facing criminal charges for driving under the influence of alcohol, a defense lawyer can help reduce your charges and negotiate a lesser punishment.
How to Complete Your Community Service
The act of community service helps provide aid and labor for local organizations and also fills the time of offenders with meaningful, productive, and lawful activities. Ideally, convicted offenders will grow from their time in community service, by fulfilling a sense of purpose, connecting to their community, and engaging with organizations that adhere to high moral values.
Find an Organization
Cook County offers a multitude of organizations to complete community service. In some cases, you may choose the organization you would like to work for. In others, your options may be limited or placement may be made for you. For example, a person convicted of a DUI with a minor under 16 in the vehicle must complete their hours with an organization that benefits children. Some options for community service include:
Animal shelters/Humane Societies
Food banks/food pantries
Cook County Forest Preserves
Another way to select an organization is by considering the service or type of work you may be providing. A few options to consider are:
Assisting a church
Providing meals at a soup kitchen
Volunteering at a non-profit thrift store like the Salvation Army or Goodwill
Cleaning up public parks, roads, or highways
Volunteering for a disaster relief program
Certain places may require a screening process which will be conducted by the Community Service Program of the Social Service Department.
The assessment will determine the skills of the offender and also consider other factors like a criminal record, type of offense, other court orders/sanctions, and personal factors like health, work schedule, and physical residence. Once a location is selected, someone from the program will contact the caseworker with the placement who will then pass the information to the offender.
Because community service must be completed within a set amount of time, it is important to be proactive when securing a location. Make sure to stay in contact with your probation officer, case workers, and the chosen organization to begin as soon as possible. Prepare for the possibility that your first choice may not pan out.
Complete Your Community Service Hours
Just as it is important to be proactive in securing a placement, you do not want to waste time completing your hours. The court provides an allotted amount of time to complete the hours. Failure to meet the deadline can result in additional penalties, like fines or a jail sentence. The hours are not optional and must be completed in person. Some worksites may offer online service options, but these do not satisfy the court-ordered requirements.
Obtain a Letter of Verification of Completion
After all hours have been finished, you must obtain a letter of verification of completion from the organization. The letter will be used as proof of your time to satisfy the requirements of your court-ordered service. It will contain the contact information of the worksite and your supervisors, a description of the type of service you performed, and a complete total of the number of hours worked.
How the Court Keeps Track of Community Service
The Community Service Program uses a software system to track all hours. The staff communicates with the organization to keep the hours updated. The software is accessible to the assigned caseworker as well. This means your supervisor, your case worker and a clerk at CSP are all monitoring work hours.
Outside of just showing up, you are expected to behave yourself as if it were your real job. The worksites have no obligation to retain the assistance of an individual who does not meet their standards of conduct. This means absenteeism, tardiness, failure to perform tasks, and misconduct can result in termination. Termination can delay the completion of hours and reflect poorly on you to the courts, thereby increasing the likelihood of additional consequences.
If you are facing a drunk driving offense, a DUI defense lawyer is your best chance at a favorable outcome. An attorney can help secure less severe punishments, like community service, if they cannot get the charges dropped altogether. At Ktenas Law, we believe in aggressive strategy for our clients. Because we understand the tactics of prosecutors, we have the advantage to build a strong defense for anyone facing alcohol-related charges. Contact our law firm today to begin your free consultation.