Probation Before Judgment is one possible outcome for a criminal case in the state of Maryland. Probation Before Judgment can be bargained for in plea negotiations or it can be the sentence of the court following a trial where the prosecution wins. In effect, Probation Before Judgment means that the court has heard enough facts to support a guilty finding, but the judge wishes not to burden the defendant with a criminal conviction on his record. In that it is not a guilty finding, Probation Before Judgment can be a good outcome for a defendant who wishes to keep his clean criminal record clean.
Probation Before Judgment in Maryland is Not a Conviction
How does it work? Probation Before Judgment is exactly what it sounds like: the defendant is sentenced to probation before the court enters a guilty judgment. The benefit of Probation Before Judgment is that it is not a guilty finding. Probation Before Judgment for a serious traffic offense does not cause points to accrue on the defendant’s drivers license. This is a tremendous benefit to the defendant. In most circumstances a defendant who is sentenced to Probation Before Judgment can answer that he was not convicted of the crime when asked by employers, schools, or other institutions. Provided that the defendant successfully completes the probationary period (if there is one) then he will, after a waiting period, have the right to petition the court for an expungement. If there is no probationary period then the defendant will have the right to petition for expungement three years from the date the Probation Before Judgment was entered. Worth mentioning is that in order to qualify to have his petition for expungement granted, the defendant cannot have any pending criminal cases and cannot have received a guilty finding during the waiting period.
Who Qualifies for Probation Before Judgment Limits Under Maryland Law?
Who qualifies for Probation Before Judgment in Maryland? Maryland Criminal Procedure §6-220 provides the rules that limit when a defendant can receive the benefit of Probation Before Judgment. Important points under this section include the following: a defendant cannot get a Probation Before Judgment for a second DUI or a DWI if he has had one in the past 10 years, for a second Controlled Dangerous Substance (drugs) offense, for a sex crime where the victim was under the age of 18, or for certain serious crimes that come with statutory minimum penalties.
When the law does not expressly prohibit the defendant from receiving Probation Before Judgment, the question of whether or not he gets one is entirely up to the presiding judge. In general, a defendant who has a clean record will get Probation Before Judgment when he appears to have made an uncharacteristic mistake, no one was injured as a result of his criminal activity, he appears unlikely to commit further crimes, and, in drug or alcohol related cases, he appears to be prepared to seek treatment for his substance abuse problems. The defendant’s lawyer should collect and organize information that will support a request for Probation Before Judgment as a part of preparing the case for trial.
Probation Before Judgment: Supervised, Unsupervised, or Neither
Probation Before Judgment can come with a period of supervised or unsupervised probation, but it need not. A Probation Before Judgment can be entered along with a fine or a sentence of time served. This is often how Probation Before Judgment is used in non-serious traffic cases. It should be noted that in serious traffic or criminal cases where there is a period of probation specified, the defendant will be facing the entire legal maximum possible sentence if he is found to have violated any of the terms of his probation. For example, if a defendant is given Probation Before Judgment with two years of supervised probation for CDS Possession Not Marijuana, a violation of probation, perhaps for being found guilty in a new criminal case, or for testing positive for illegal drugs, leaves him facing up to four years of incarceration, the maximum possible penalty for the underlying offense.
Probation Before Judgment Means No Appeal!
Whether or not to accept Probation Before Judgment requires careful consideration. In order to receive its benefit, the a defendant must give up his right to file an appeal. Any defendant who is offered Probation Before Judgment would be wise to discuss the matter with an attorney.
If you are a defendant in a Maryland serious traffic or criminal case and you are wondering if you qualify for a Probation Before Judgment or if you should accept a Probation Before Judgment, call Attorney Matthew Baum for a free consultation. He can be reached at (410) 929-3435. As a part of his criminal defense and serious traffic defense practice, he has helped numerous defendants make informed choices concerning Probation Before Judgment.