A Seattle-based online service appears to be a making a mockery of the old admonition: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Just check out www.fastcommunityservice.com and you'll get the picture.
Here's how it works: Say you're busted for a DUI and the judge decides to tack onto your sentence 100 hours of community service. But, you know, the thought of picking up roadside trash in an orange jumper or ladling out spit pea soup at a homeless shelter just isn't cutting it. Besides, you're too darn busy, what with having to decide whether to get her for Christmas the MacBook Pro or the MacBook Air.
That's where fastcommunityservice.com comes in. For $119.95, 100 hours of community service can be purchased -- it's $49.95 for 50 hours; $29.95 for 25 hours -- by calling their 800 number, where operators are standing by to run your credit card.
Or would you rather take a quiz that you don't even need to pass?
Now, to the herculean tasks that must be performed in order to get an really official looking letter that informs the court that you've honorably and diligently done your time.
An online course is required, and there are five to choose from, four of which deal with problems associated with drinking too much coffee. We're not kidding. You're asked to purchase a book (Confessions of Caffeine Addict, The Truth About Coffee or The Truth About Caffeine), presumably read it, then take a 40-question multiple-choice quiz on the hazards of double lattes.
"Do you to need pass the quiz?" we asked one of the operators, a man named Bill.
"No, you don't," he replied.
Once the quiz is completed, regardless of whether or not you failed it miserably, a letter can be printed out on letterhead that has at the top of it the name of one of the "several" non-profits fastcommunityservice says it associates with.
The only non-profit connected with fastcommunity service that we could find was, not surprisingly, the Caffeine Awareness Association.
"And courts actually accept this kind of letter?" we asked another operator, this one named Chris.
"We've never had a letter rejected," replied Chris.
Fastcommunity service began in 2005. It's website says it is a non-profit that it is up in running all over the county, and that its program is developed "by licensed experts."
We, of course, wondered -- as you must -- what King County courts thought of the online how-to-scam-the-system service.
"We've never heard of it," exclaimed King County Superior Courts' chief administrative officer Paul Scherfey. "But let me make some calls and get back to you."
Five minutes later, Scherfey phoned back to say, "I've just talked our criminal division and none of the criminal defendants have ever been referred to that service."
Added Scherfey, "If this is happening, it shouldn't be. If you hear about someone using it, please call us, OK?"