Community service in Las Vegas criminal cases

Community service is a standard penalty in many Las Vegas Justice Court and Municipal Court criminal cases. Defendants can usually serve their hours at any registered non-profit organization in Clark County.

Providing services to the community is also a way for defendants convicted of a crime to avoid paying a fine: Every hour of service performed reduces the fine by $10.

Defendants must be careful to complete all the required hours by the due date the judge sets. Otherwise, the judge may order them to jail.

In this article, our Nevada criminal defense attorneys discuss serving community service in Las Vegas criminal cases:

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Nevada defendants serving criminal sentences can often do community service instead of pay fines.

1. Community Service definition

Community service is a mandatory penalty in certain Nevada criminal cases. Defendants who are ordered to do service must volunteer for a predetermined number of hours at a verified and registered non-profit service agency (501(c)(3)).

Common examples of service to the Las Vegas community include:

  • gathering trash by the side of the highway
  • handing out food at soup kitchens
  • cleaning animal shelters

Court-ordered service requires physical and manual labor. But light duties should be available for defendants with physical limitations. Defendants do not get paid for their service hours.

Note that defendants are not allowed to complete more than eight (8) service hours of service a day. Even if a defendant is ordered to work nine hours, he/she will need to complete them over no less than two days. It makes no difference if the defendant is willing to work more than eight hours a day.1

2. When community service is imposed

Community service is a mandatory penalty for several Nevada crimes, including:

Service to the community is a mandatory punishment for many Nevada traffic offenses and Nevada juvenile crimes as well.

As discussed in the next section, defendants can often opt to do service hours instead of paying a fine.

3. Service versus fines

soup kitchen
One hour of service wipes out $10 dollars of criminal fines in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas judges often permit defendants in criminal cases to do community service instead of paying a fine. One hour of service equals $10 in fines.3 Therefore, a defendant sentenced to pay a $100 fine can usually do 10 hours of service instead. Or this same defendant could do a combination, such as paying $50 and doing 5 hours of service.

Community service is an opportunity for defendants in criminal cases who may have trouble paying their fine to complete their sentence requirement through service. In short, defendants can pay with hours instead of dollars.

The period of community service must not exceed the following:

4. Procedures and phone numbers

The Las Vegas judge's clerk will give a "referral" to defendants after the judge sentences them to community service (or allows them to do community service in lieu of fines). These defendants must then take the referral and report to the Clark County Community Service Program window at the Regional Justice Center, located at:

200 Lewis Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89101

For defendants in criminal cases, the Program window is located on the second floor (the phone number is (702) 671-3201). For defendants in traffic cases, the Program window is located on the first floor (the phone number is (702) 671-3283).

Defendants are charged a $25 assessment fee when they first sign up. However, the defendant can ask the judge to waive this fee. The judge is more likely to waive it if the defendant is choosing to do service in lieu of paying a fine.

The Program will supply defendants with timesheets that that must be signed by an agency representative to verify their hours worked. It is the defendant's responsibility to contact the agency and set up dates and times to come in.

When defendants complete their service hours, it also is their responsibility to return the timesheet to the Program no later than 5 business days before the next court date. The Program will then verify with the agency that the timesheet is accurate.4 Defendants should also give a copy to their attorney.

5. Getting an extension

Nevada defendants are required to complete all their required community service hours prior to the date that the judge chooses during the sentencing hearing.

When defendants realize they need more time to complete the hours, their attorneys should contact the prosecutor as soon as possible. If the prosecutor agrees to an extension, then the judge is more likely to grant an extension at the next court hearing. In some cases, the defense attorney may even request that the court schedule a special court hearing expressly for the purpose of asking for an extension. 

The one thing defendants should never do is to wait until the court appearance when the service hours are due to ask for an extension. The judge may still grant the extension, but the judge is under no obligation to. As explained in the next section, failing to finish serving community service by the ordered due date may cause the defendant to be remanded to jail.

6. Failing to complete the required hours

The Nevada penalty for failing to complete required community service hours depends on what conditions the judge originally imposed during the sentencing hearing.

trash collecting
People who neglect to finish their service hours in time often risk going to jail. But the judge may give the defendant a second chance if he/she has a good excuse.

Example: Jaden pleads guilty to a first count of misdemeanor battery domestic violence. The judge tells Jaden that he will reduce the charge to disorderly conduct if Jaden successfully completes 48 hours of community service, pays a fine, goes to counseling, and avoids more arrests while the case is open. The judge also orders a six-month "suspended sentence," which means that Jade will do no jail time as long as he completes all the terms by the next court date.

At the next court date, Jaden reveals he did everything the judge asked except the service. Since Jaden failed to complete all the terms, the judge may convict him for battery domestic violence instead of disorderly conduct. The judge may also "un-suspend" the jail sentence and send him to jail for six months.

In the above example, it does not matter that Jade completed nearly all of the requirements. The judge has the discretion to impose the total punishment even if just one sentencing requirement was not met.

7. Places to serve

The Las Vegas Community Service Program currently recognizes more than 120 public and private registered non-profit 501C-3 service agencies in Clark County. Some of these include:

  1. Adopt a Rescue Pet
  2. Assistance League
  3. Awakenings
  4. Baby's Bounty
  5. Big Paw Rescue
  6. Blind Center of Nevada
  7. Can You Identify Me?
  8. The Churchill Foundation
  9. Dress for Success Southern Nevada
  10. F.E.A.T. of Southern Nevada
  11. Friends of Red Rock Canyon
  12. Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada
  13. Gilcrease Nature Sancturary
  14. The Key Foundation
  15. Las Vegas Rescue Mission
  16. Ronald McDonald House Charities Greater Las Vegas
  17. Rotary Club of Las Vegas
  18. Safe Nest
  19. The Shade Tree
  20. Sunshine Nevada

Defendants must complete their service hours at an organization that the Program approves of. If the defendant wishes to complete their hours elsewhere, they should get permission from the Program first to make sure their hours will be counted.

8. Completing community service in another county or state

Las Vegas criminal judges usually permit their non-Clark County resident defendants to complete any service requirements in whatever city or state they live. But these defendants -- or their attorneys -- first need to ask the judge's permission during open court.

In addition, defendants should contact the Las Vegas Community Service Court Program to make sure it approves of the organization in their hometown where they want to serve (scroll up to section 4 for the Program's phone numbers).

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Legal References

  1. Community Service Program FAQ, Las Vegas Justice Court.
  2. In addition, "johns" who are sentenced for the Nevada crime of prostitution (NRS 201.354) have the option of doing service in lieu of paying the civil fine. Repeat-prostitution offenders who trespass at a casino in violation of NRS 207.203 may also do service instead of paying a fine. And courts may order certain probation violators to do service pursuant to NRS 209.4295.
  3. See Letter from Kim Kampling, Court Administrator/Deputy Clerk of Las Vegas Justice Court.

    NRS 176.087  Imposition of community service as punishment or condition of probation.

          1.  Except where the imposition of a specific criminal penalty is mandatory, a court may order a convicted person to perform supervised community service:

          (a) In lieu of all or a part of any fine or imprisonment that may be imposed for the commission of a misdemeanor; or

          (b) As a condition of probation granted for another offense.

          2.  The community service must be performed for and under the supervising authority of a county, city, town or other political subdivision or agency of the State of Nevada or a charitable organization that renders service to the community or its residents.

          3.  The court may require the convicted person to deposit with the court a reasonable sum of money to pay for the cost of policies of insurance against liability for personal injury and damage to property or for industrial insurance, or both, during those periods in which the person performs the community service, unless, in the case of industrial insurance, it is provided by the authority for which the person performs the community service.

          4.  The following conditions apply to any such community service imposed by the court:

          (a) The court must fix the period of community service that is imposed as punishment or a condition of probation and distribute the period over weekends or over other appropriate times that will allow the convicted person to continue employment and to care for the person's family. The period of community service fixed by the court must not exceed, for a:

                 (1) Misdemeanor, 200 hours;

                 (2) Gross misdemeanor, 600 hours; or

                 (3) Felony, 1,000 hours.

          (b) A supervising authority listed in subsection 2 must agree to accept the convicted person for community service before the court may require the convicted person to perform community service for that supervising authority. The supervising authority must be located in or be the town or city of the convicted person's residence or, if that placement is not possible, one located within the jurisdiction of the court or, if that placement is not possible, the authority may be located outside the jurisdiction of the court.

          (c) Community service that a court requires pursuant to this section must be supervised by an official of the supervising authority or by a person designated by the authority.

          (d) The court may require the supervising authority to report periodically to the court or to a probation officer the convicted person's performance in carrying out the punishment or condition of probation.

    5. For each hour of community service that is performed by a person pursuant to this section, the court must provide a credit of $10 or the amount of the state minimum wage if health insurance is not offered, whichever is greater, toward the payment of any fine that was imposed against the person for the commission of the offense for which the person was ordered to perform community service.

  4. Community Service Program FAQ, Las Vegas Justice Court.


 

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