Texas statutes require a judge to impose, as a condition of community supervision (probation), a requirement that the defendant perform a specified number of hours of community service in misdemeanor and felony cases. The statutes, also, specify the number of hours to be performed, according to the level of the offense(s) committed by the offender.
Community service is defined as the performance of a specified number of hours of unpaid/volunteer labor for a specified governmental or non-profit community-based entity that provides services to the general public.
The statutes provide that defendants performing community service work as a condition of community supervision are exempted from the provisions of the Worker’s Compensation Act. In addition, the statutes state that the defendant performing the community service is to receive no benefits other than satisfying his/her court ordered obligations.
A court may require a defendant, other than a defendant convicted of an intoxication offense, to serve all or part of a sentence of confinement or period of confinement required as a condition of community supervision in county jail by performing community service rather than by being confined in county jail unless the sentence of confinement was imposed by the jury in the case. While the defendant is free to perform as many hours of community service as they wish in a week, the court may not order a defendant who is employed to perform more than 16 hours per week (unless the court determines that requiring the defendant to work additional hours does not work a hardship on the defendant or the defendant’s dependents). A court may not order a defendant who is unemployed to perform more than 32 hours per week of community service, but may direct the defendant to use the remaining hours of the week to seek employment.
A defendant is considered to have served one day in jail for each eight hours of community service performed.
A CSCD has the legal authority to supervise defendants convicted of Class C misdemeanors and sentenced to perform community service, even if these convictions come out of courts that are not courts of record (municipal courts, justice of the peace courts).
A court may require a defendant who is unable to pay a fine or court costs to discharge all or part of the fine or costs by performing community service. The defendant is considered to have discharged $100.00 of fines or costs for each eight hours of community service performed under this measure.
The statutes, also, provide for the immunity of the CSCD and its employees, as well as the entity receiving the community service, the courts, and prosecutors for damages arising from an act of failure to act by the entity in connection with a community service program, so long as the act was not intentional, willfully or wantonly negligent, or performed with conscious indifference to reckless disregard for the safety of others.
As a general rule, juvenile and adult offender populations cannot be mixed at community service projects. Both groups can be required to perform community service at the same site provided each group is separated from the other and there is a responsible individual present to supervise them.
Community service cannot be performed for religious based organizations because of separation of church and state doctrines of federal and state origins. However, a community service program can assist a religious body which provides secular services to the community as a whole, such as a church organized food pantry for the poor. That means a religious affiliated organization which sponsors a community service program which provides non-sectarian or non-doctrinal aid in a locality.
Likewise, community service cannot be performed for an individual or provides benefits for that individual that is not incidental.
The only substitution for community service labor is when the defendant is allowed by the court to make a specified donation to a nonprofit food bank or food pantry in the community in which the defendant resides, with the approval of the CSCD.
A resident of a community corrections facility (CCF) can be required to perform community service at a CCF even though the court does not order community service as a condition of community supervision.
It remains within the discretion of the judge that ordered a confine to perform community service as a condition of community supervision to determine whether the hours of community service performed at a state jail facility can be applied toward the fulfillment of the court-ordered community service obligation.
All community service must be completed at an agency or entity approved by the CSCD, and to which the CSCD assigned the defendant. Community service hours completed anywhere else without prior approval by the CSCD will not be accepted.