|Payment counter at Austin municipal court|
Working from a preset formula with no inquiry as to her individual circumstances, the judge demanded 37.5 hours community service for a $460 fine - nearly a full work week for a single traffic ticket. That's about $12.26 of the fine waived per hour worked. Given that the estimated value of volunteer time for nonprofits is nearly double that (vis a vis how much they can estimate its value as an in-kind contribution), plus the fact that indigent people tend to have transportation issues and family obligations that might make a full week of community service onerous, that ratio seemed low to me. I bet the low rate contributes to people not completing community service and having their warrants reissued.
For more background and context on the vagaries of community service at muni court, see ACLUTX's Know Your Rights brief on Traffic Tickets and other Class C misdemeanors in Texas.