Some individuals in Florida are offered community service as an alternative to jail time when they are not able to pay court fees. While this may be a humane alternative, court-ordered community service seems to be having an especially negative impact on low-income communities and people of color.
One report involved 5,000 individuals in Los Angeles who had to work off fines over one year in Los Angeles. The study showed that when individuals complied with the community service orders, millions of hours were spent in unprotected and unpaid labor by individuals who are most likely to experience work instability or unemployment. Judges often order individuals to perform community service that equates to three weeks of full-time work.
The report revealed another interesting fact. It showed that the dollar value of the imposed fines are often much less than the value of the work that an individual is ordered to perform. If a defendant was given a traffic ticket that incurred a violation of around $500, they were often ordered to work for over 50 hours.
Traffic court typically deals with minor infractions. The report showed that community service is usually assigned to people of color. The statistics show that 81% of individuals were Latino, 9% were white, 8% were black and 2% were Asian.
Being charged with a traffic offense can lead to jail time, fines, loss of license or community service requirements. That’s why an alleged offender may want to speak to a criminal defense attorney, even in cases that seem minor. The attorney might be able to provide advice on how to get a better outcome, perhaps avoiding jail time or paying fines.