Community Service FAQ
Q: You asked me to do community service in advance (before the court ordered it). Why?
A: My first strategy with any case is to convince the prosecutors to dismiss the charge. The prosecutors have to justify dismissing the case to their boss (the elected County Attorney). One of the justifications that they use is that the defendant has done community service. Community service alone will not get your case dismissed, but depending on your charge, it can certainly increase our chances.
Q: Why do they value community service?
A: In addition to the obvious reason that community service benefits our Austin community – the prosecutors assume that during the time you are doing this work, you will reflect on the situation that got you into trouble. The prosecutors hope this will reduce the chances that you get in trouble again.
Q: How much community service should I do?
A: We usually recommend between 20-30 hours. If you end up on probation (community supervision) at the conclusion of your case, any community service you did during this time will count towards your total requirement.
Q: What do I need to give you to prove I did the community service? Does it have to be on a special form?
A: It does not need to be on a special form. Any document that is signed by the non-profit that notates the time and dates of the community service will work. Ideally the document will be on the letterhead of the non-profit. Most importantly, it needs to include contact information for someone at the organization who can verify the community service.
Q: Can I just have them write it on regular paper?
A: As a last resort, yes. However some people fake community service documents, so the prosecutors are suspicious of any document that doesn’t look official. If you do use regular paper, be sure to include contact information for someone at the organization that can verify your community service.
Q: Will you give me a form to print out?
A: Sure. Here you go.
Q: Where do you suggest I do the community service?
A: You can do it for any non-profit / non-religious organization.
Q: This stinks.
A: It doesn’t have to be bad. We suggest that you look at this as an opportunity to do something new. There are a lot of organizations in Austin that do unique and interesting things. Don’t just go to Goodwill. While Goodwill is undoubtedly a fine organization – the work you would do for them is mostly mindless sorting and cleaning. Find something interesting and the time will fly by. We’ve had clients make great friends and even get hired for jobs at non-profits.
Here is a list of a few local organizations that we like:
Inside Books Project: Open letters from inmates. Select books to best fit the request. Make packages of books to send back to each inmate. 3106 East 14 & 1/2 Street, Austin, TX 78702. (512) 655-3121
Austin Yellow Bike Project: A volunteer-powered initiative to put bicycles on the streets of Austin and Central Texas by operating community bike shops, teaching bike mechanics and maintenance and acting as a local bike advocacy group. Opportunities include repairing bicycles, cleaning and organizing the shop, planning and promoting special events, coordinating community partnerships, answering e-mails, ordering tools and helping with the YBP website. 1216 Webberville Rd., Austin, TX 78721. (512) 524-5299
LBJ Wildflower Center: Positions available in the gift store, leading public tours, and helping with family events. Note: If you have a theft charge, this community service is not available. 4801 La Crosse Ave, Austin, TX 78739. (512) 232-0020
Casa Marianella: Emergency shelter and training center for immigrants seeking asylum. Volunteer opportunities include cooking daily meals, helping with house repairs, playing in the Sunday band, helping residents with job and apartment applications, and organizing donation drives. Organization is also open to other volunteer ideas. 821 Gunter Street, Austin, TX 78702. (512) 385-5571
Habitat for Humanity: Assist in construction of Habitat for Humanity homes. All skill levels welcome. (512) 472-8788 x100
Urban Roots: A youth development organization that uses food and farming to transform the lives of young people and engage and nourish the community. Volunteer opportunities include assisting with farm chores, planting and harvesting crops, and utilizing specialized skills to serve as farm consultants. Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:30-11:30am and select Saturdays (Note: If you have an assault charge, this community service is not available. 2921 East 17th Street, Austin, TX 78702. (512) 750-8019
Keep Austin Beautiful: Help keep Austin clean by cleaning Lady Bird Lake and local creeks. 55 N. IH-35 Frontage Rd #215, Austin, TX 78702. (512) 391-0617