Do I have to complete all my community service hours or can I buy them out?
Updated: Apr 3
This post is relevant to Sarasota County, FL and Manatee County, FL. Judges in Sarasota and Bradenton will often allow criminal defendants who have been ordered to complete community service hours to “buy out” the hours at $10 per hour (some judges even at $8 per hour). This means that the defendant will be allowed to pay $10 for every one hour of community service. For example, if they were ordered to complete 10 hours of community service, in order to buy them out, they would pay $100. Be aware that some judges will only allow defendants to buy out ½ of the hours.
A Judge Must Order This
In order for you to be able to buy out your hours, a judge must order it. You cannot just decide on your own that you want to do this, a judge must order it. Also, a probation officer cannot order it, only a judge.
This means the judge must either put it on the record in court (say it in court) or put it in a written order at a later date. The easiest way to go about this is to ask the judge to allow you to buy out the hours when you enter a plea and are sentenced.
What if I am already on probation and it wasn’t ordered?
If you are already on probation, it is not too late, however your request will need to be brought before the judge. One way is to write a motion requesting that you be allowed to buy out your community service hours. The motion would need to be filed with the Clerk of Court. A hearing will also need to be set in front of the judge, where you go in person and ask the judge.
What if you do not want to go back to court and before the judge?
If you either do not want to go to court, or cannot attend court because of work, for instance, there is another way: An attorney can ask the prosecutor to stipulate (or agree) to allow you to buy out the hours in a written stipulation. If the prosecutor agrees and signs the stipulation, then a written order can be sent over to the judge. If the judge signs the order, then you will be allowed to buy out the hours. This can usually be completed without you having to go to court.