Probation Before Judgment: Avoid a Conviction
Probation before judgment (PBJ) is a way of resolving a criminal or traffic case in the State of Maryland without potentially having a criminal or traffic conviction on your record. If you have not previously received the benefit of PBJ or you have previously been convicted of only a minor offense, then you may be eligible for PBJ.
What is Probation Before Judgment?
Probation before judgment (PBJ) is a special type of disposition in a criminal or traffic case. In a nutshell, it is a means of avoiding a conviction of a criminal or traffic offense on your record. This may be confusing; but to receive the benefit of PBJ, you must either enter a guilty plea or be found guilty following a trial by a judge or jury. Instead of being sentenced to jail and/or having to pay a heavy fine, the judge may grant you the benefit of PBJ in lieu of jail and/or a heavy fine and place you on a period of probation instead. The probation will likely have some conditions and may be either supervised or unsupervised. In a case where someone receives PBJ for a DUI/DWI offense, probation will typically consist of submitting to an alcohol or drug abuse assessment and completing any recommended treatment programs (unless you did that on your own before court). Probation is violated when someone fails to comply or complete one or more of their condition(s) of probation. If someone is found to have violated his or her probation, the judge generally has several options: Revoke your probation and impose a period of incarceration and/or a heavy fine; revoke your probation and take away your PBJ disposition (leaving a conviction on your record); and/or extend or modify your probation.
What are the Benefits of Probation Before Judgment?
Avoiding a conviction on your record for a criminal or traffic offense is the primary benefit of PBJ. On an employment or housing application, PBJ allows you to truthfully say that you have never been convicted of a crime. PBJ also allows you to potentially have all records pertaining to your case erased from the public domain through a process called expungement. In other words, PBJ is like a second chance at having a clean slate.
How a Baltimore County Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
While you may always choose to represent yourself, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you receive a PBJ disposition. PBJ is possible for first-time offenses that include:
- Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance
- DUI/DWI (a PBJ disposition would mean no points added to your Maryland driver record)
- Second Degree Assault
- Speeding and Other Minor Traffic Offenses (again, PBJ would mean result in no points added to your Maryland driver record)
- And many other offenses
But the key takeaway about PBJ is that the judge has wide discretion in whether or not to grant it. There is absolutely no guarantee that you will receive a PBJ disposition, even for a first offense. Anyone, including an attorney, that makes such a promise or guarantee would be lying to you – plain and simple. The judge will consider the seriousness of the offense, your criminal and/or driver records, and whether the offense involved violence, children, large quantities of drugs, or other factors. An experienced criminal defense attorney likely knows what you can do before court to increase the likelihood of receiving a PBJ disposition if you decide to either plead guilty or are found guilty following a trial by a judge or jury. By working with an experienced criminal defense attorney, there are things you can do before court to show the judge that a PBJ disposition would be appropriate, deter you from re-offending, benefit society, and be in the interest of justice.