COURT WATCH: Judge Initially Keeps 40 Hours Mandatory Community Service for Disabled Woman; She Weeps, Judge Changes Mind

By Audrey Sawyer

MODESTO, CA – A woman admitted to a violation of probation Thursday for not honoring a protective order was almost ordered here in Stanislaus County Superior Court to complete 40 hours of community service despite being disabled.

But, after the accused burst into tears in court while explaining the difficulty of simply getting around town, the judge decided to not require the community service hours, although he did keep the 52 weeks of classes.

The terms of her admission include to serve 120 days in county jail (credits of 38 actual, 38 good and work time equaling a total of 76 days). Probation is extended to Dec. 10, 2024, and she is told to report to probation within seven days of release. Her other misdemeanor case was dismissed.

Initially, Deputy Public Defender Ryan Bowler informed Judge Shawn Bessey he had concerns over the required 40 hours of community service, considering the accused is disabled.

Said Bowler, “Concerning the probation case, I believe the requirements are 52 weeks for classes. My client is living on disability. I did submit a financial declaration. I ask that the court get rid of the 52-week courses or at least certainly the 40 hours of community service. I don’t think that it is something practical.”

Judge Shawn Bessey initially denied the request to make modifications to the terms, stating, “That is not really a pay issue. They do have programs that she may get assistance with. I will ask that probation keep in mind her financial situation and any program to do a financial assessment.”

The judge added, “If appropriate, they might refer her to the appropriate program, but that is not necessarily based on a financial declaration that I would find in the interest of Justice to vacate the requirement.”

The accused, who had started to weep, cried out, “I am disabled.”

Judge Bessey repeated what he said again, asking if she understood her terms of probation and told her to tell probation about her financial situation.

The accused, still in tears, said, “How am I supposed to do 40 hours of community service when I can’t even find my way around town? I’m sorry. I’m disabled.”

After the accused emphasized this claim again, the judge told the clerk to remove the mandated 40 hours of community service, ruling it was based on the provided documents of financial declaration from DPD Bowler.

The accused said she had completed a portion—12—of her classes already, but she no longer had access to her husband’s phone to finish them. At this, the judge told her that probation will get her “back on track.”

About The Author

Audrey is a senior at UC San Diego majoring in Political Science (Comparative Politics emphasis). After graduation, Audrey plans on attending graduate school and is considering becoming a public defender.

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