Anti-caffeine quiz for community service raising eyebrows

SEATTLE -- To stay out of jail, you might be willing to try anything. Sometimes a judge doesn't give you a choice and community service comes your way, but one website is offering to make that process very easy.

"This program allowed me to complete my court-ordered community service right from home," trumpets one of the former clients of a Seattle-based company called Fast Community Service.

They say with their system, you can satisfy up to 250 hours of court-ordered community service for anywhere from $20 to $300.

"I didn't want to be in my suit picking up trash and cleaning toilets either," the testimonial says.

The site says it is all web-based, self-study classes you do at your own pace after buying their e-books. The final is a 40-question multiple choice test.

"Once confirmed, you will log in and begin the quiz. When finished, print your letter and you are done," the company's video explains.

"That wouldn't qualify as community service if I was sitting on the bench, no," said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

He said community service hours are meant to be an alternative to time behind bars.

"May seem like a clever idea until the judge finds out and converts the community service hours back to jail time," he said.

Fast Community Service's "e-books" are actually texts warning of the evils of caffeine addiction.

An operator hung up on KOMO 4 Problem Solver Jon Humbert after he asked a few questions. On the company's website, it says it's part of the Caffeine Awareness Association, a licensed non-profit. The IRS website shows that organization was registered as tax-exempt as recently as 2010.

The IRS documents appeared to show the caffeine awareness association is a 501c(6) which the IRS says is more like a board of trade or chamber of commerce than a charity. The company and the anti-caffeine organization share the same address in Pioneer Square -- a mailboxes store where owners can anonymously pick up packages.

No one from the association returned emails or took our calls.

For Lindquist, an online quiz should never stand in for serious legal punishment.

"Judges can lose patience with people that they think are trying to game the system," he said.

The King and Pierce County court systems both say they have not had these companies try to use this method to satisfy community service locally. They strongly urge people not to do so.

Despite multiple calls and emails, no one from the companies wanted to go on the record.