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Community service as an incarceration alternative

Criminal charges can lead to penalties that could impact the life of the defendant in significant ways. However, even if the accused is convicted, there are steps the defendant could take to reduce the consequences they could endure during sentencing. For those facing misdemeanor charges, seeking community service instead of incarceration is a possibility.

According to New York State Executive Law, Article 13-A section 261(1)(b) states that community service is recognized as an eligible program as an alternative to incarceration. In order to obtain this alternative to incarceration, the defendant needs to submit a service plan to the Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives for approval. According to section 65.10(2)(h) of the New York Penal Law, those accused of misdemeanors are authorized to seek this alternative to incarceration.

In order to approve this plan, the defendant must be eligible for the community service program. There are five major eligibility criteria considered in this situation. First, the criminal history of the defendant is considered. It must be appropriate for the offender to enter such a program, and those with current or past convictions of a sex offense are not eligible. Second, the offender must be 16-years-old or older.

Third, the offender must consent to the conditions of the community service plan as it is documented. This means the offender must agree to adhere to the hours, days, nature of work, type of work and any fees associated with the program. Fourth, the consideration for the program must adhere to the New York State Human Rights Law, which states that the defendant cannot be discriminated against in ways similar to employment discrimination. Lastly, consistency must be maintained with regards to crime eligibility and worksite placement.

Source: Criminaljustice.ny.gov, "Community Service Standards," accessed Aug. 23, 2015

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