PBJ: Maryland Lawyer explains “Probation Before Judgement”
PBJ is a acronym that is thrown around all the time in legal circles. No it doesn’t mean Peanut Butter Jelly.
PBJ’s (The Law):
In Maryland criminal law circles, PBJ is a shorthand for Probation Before Judgment. Probation before Judgment is essentially being placed on probation BEFORE THE JUDGMENT IS ENTERED. That means you have not been found guilty of the crime. This may not seem like a big benefit, but it is. You can truthfully answer you have not been convicted of a crime on job applications, your car insurance does not go through the roof (if it’s a DUI), and (for certain crimes) you can get the matter expunged after successfully completing probation.
The rules governing PBJ’s for DUI’s and other violations of Maryland law are outlined in Maryland Criminal Procedure §6-220.
PBJ: When you can one
- For a first-time DUI or DWI offense (or if you have not had a DUI/DWI conviction/PBJ within the last 10 years).
- For a first-time violation of the Maryland Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS or Drug) laws
- For any first-time offense of any felony or misdemeanor violation of Maryland law, except as listed below.
- For any repeat offense, unless statutorily prohibited, where the defendant can demonstrate to the court, usually through an extensive sentencing presentation through counsel, that the defendant is amenable to treatment through probation before judgment.
When you cannot, by law, get a PBJ:
- For a second DUI or DWI offense within the last 10 years (if you have more than one conviction for DUI/DWI it will be difficult to obtain a PBJ at any time). Crim. Pro. §6-220 (d)(1)
- For a second violation for the Maryland Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS or Drug) laws. See Crim. Pro. §6-220 (d)(2).
- First-time sex crimes against a child as enumerated in the PBJ statute. See Crim. Pro. §6-220 (d)(3).
- When the enumerated crime has a mandatory minimum penalty. Examples of this would be certain violations of narcotics laws, handgun violations, or violent crimes such as murder.
- Traffic violations while driving on a provisional license and already having a PBJ. See Crim. Pro. §6-220 (d)(4).
- As a defendant you should understand that most judges view that PBJ’s are something to be earned and may not be automatic for any first offense.
- At sentencing, no matter what judge it is, proper behavior, presentation, and appearance are key.
- Although a judge MAY grant PBJ for almost any first-time conviction, you should not be surprised, absent unusual circumstances, to NOT be offered a PBJ for:
- crimes of violence (robbery, etc),
- large quantities of drugs,
- A DUI with a high blood alcohol content result, and/or
- DUI’s with accidents
There are some drawbacks to PBJ’s and depending on your circumstances it may NOT be best to accept a PBJ.
Drawbacks to PBJ’s:
- You’re going to be on probation for some period of time, usually supervised…so, don’t screw up because…
- You face the entire sentence when you are brought back in front of the judge for a VOP – i.e. if you got a PBJ for a second degree assault and you violate your probation, you are facing 10 years in prison for the violation of probation.
- You give up your right to appeal. This is probably the key when you lose a trial at district court and the judge offers you a PBJ. If you have a good trial issue, you still can take an appeal “de novo” which means “of new” to the Circuit Court. Judges often offer PBJ’s to avoid appeals and to guarantee you will receive some type of probation.
- If you are not a United States Citizen – a PBJ may be as bad as a conviction
- If you have a security clearance, a CDL license, or some other type of special circumstance, a PBJ may not be in your best interest and you might need to retain your appeal rights.
The bottom line is that every case, every judge, every prosecutor, and every client is unique. A PBJ is never guaranteed and if you find yourself charged with a violation of Maryland DUI laws or a Maryland crime, be sure to contact your Maryland lawyer.
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