Community service is a very common term of probation in Arizona. Probationers are required to perform the hours, which were assigned by the judge during the sentencing hearing. They have to be performed at an eligible non-profit. If they fail, the person will likely not be awarded an early termination of probation, and may face a probation violation.
1. What is community service?
Community service, also called community restitution in Arizona, is a frequently-assigned term of probation. Defendants convicted of a crime and who are serving their sentence out of prison on probation have to complete their community service obligation in order to end their probation term or to comply with its terms and rules.
At the sentencing hearing, the judge will impose a set number of hours that have to be served in community restitution.1 Like other terms of probation, this requirement has to be in writing.
These hours have to be served at a non-profit organization, or 501(c)(3) group, that has been approved by the county. Common volunteer opportunities include:
- roadside trash collection,
- helping young people with homework to maintain school enrollment or high school students in student organizations who are struggling to meet graduation requirements,
- serving food at a soup kitchen,
- spending volunteer hours to raise money for a community service program,
- building accessibility ramps for senior citizens or elderly neighbors through groups like Habitat for Humanity,
- volunteer work at a local homeless shelter or a low-income community center,
- stocking shelves at a food bank, or
- cleaning a local park or animal shelter.
While Arizona law imposes community service opportunities to make the defendant give back to the community members that indirectly suffered from the criminal offense, these community service projects can also help the probationer by giving them valuable work experience and helping them meet a well-connected group of people in the area.
2. When is community restitution imposed in Arizona?
Community service work can be imposed as a term of:
Community restitution can also be imposed in lieu of a court fee if the judge finds that the defendant would be unable to pay the fee. The court fee would be reduced by $10 for every hour of community service imposed. This can replace court payments like:
- civil penalties,
- fees, or
- costs of incarceration.2
3. How many hours will I have to serve?
The number of hours of community service activities that will be imposed is at the discretion of the judge. Factors include:
- the nature of the offense,
- the class of crime committed, including whether it was a felony or a misdemeanor,
- the defendant’s criminal background, and
- the defendant’s ability to pay fines, court costs, and other surcharges.
However, people on intensive probation have to perform at least the following monthly minimums:
- 40 hours, or
- 20 hours, if the probationer is a full-time student, working full-time, or in a treatment program.3
4. What is the procedure?
Each county in Arizona has its own process for probationers who have been assigned to perform community service. Some Community Restitution Programs, like the one in Maricopa County, require probationers to register before beginning their service hour obligations. Some, such as the one in Yavapai County, assign probationers to particular jobs or work crews based on the skills and abilities of the probationer.
Each county also has its own list of approved volunteering programs. Not all non-profit organizations accept court-ordered community service volunteers. Hours spent volunteering at an unapproved non-profit will not count towards the number that probationers need to meet.
Probationers should direct any questions to their probation officer or their county’s probation department.
They should also keep track of their timesheet for logging service hours. If lost, there will be no record of the service performed and the probationer will likely have to do it, again.
5. What if I do not finish?
The repercussion of not performing enough community service will depend on the term of probation.
Some probationary terms are set at a certain length. While judges have discretion in setting the length of a defendant’s probation, they generally depend on the class of crime4:
|Class of crime
|Term of probation
|Class 2 felony
|Class 3 felony
|Class 4 felony
|Class 5 felony
|Class 6 felony
|Class 1 misdemeanor
|Class 2 misdemeanor
|Class 3 misdemeanor
In these cases, if community service obligations are not completed when probation is set to expire, the judge may refuse to terminate probation or may set a probation violation hearing.
Some probationary terms are not certain lengths. Instead, the judge sets the terms of probation and the probationer can file a Petition for Early Termination when they are all done. These uncertain terms of probation may be more common in drug court, where the probation is focused on treatment and substance abuse programs.
In these cases, the judge would be unlikely to approve of a Petition for Early Termination until the community service obligations are completed. Probation would continue until the hours were done.
- ARS 13-717.
- ARS 13-824.
- ARS 13-914(E)(6).
- ARS 13-902.