What is a Probation Before Judgement in Maryland?
Probation before judgment in Maryland (PBJ) is when a defendant is put on probation before a judgment is entered for their criminal or traffic case. As a defendant, a PBJ will mean that you will have probation without conviction. Keeping your record conviction-free under Maryland law. A judge can give you probation before judgment after a guilty plea or guilty finding after trial.
It is important to know that a PBJ does not exist in the federal system. A PBJ does constitute a conviction under federal law. If you are not a US citizen or have a professional license, make sure you speak with a lawyer about how a PBJ affects you.
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). 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.
How Long Does Probation Before Judgement Last?
How long your probation before judgment lasts depends on the judge’s entry. That said, the maximum time depends on if it is in a District or Circuit Court.
In a Circuit Court, a judge may place you on probation for a maximum of 5 years. In a District Court, the maximum is only 3 years.
When you can get a PBJ?
Probation before judgment is often available under the judge’s discretion but is never guaranteed. Common circumstances to get a PBJ are:
- For a first-time DUI or DWI offense
- For a DUI or DWI if you have not had a conviction or PBJ for one within the last 10 years
- A first-time violation of the Maryland Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS or Drug) laws
- 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.
Probation Before Judgment for a Speeding Ticket
You can receive probation before judgement for a speeding ticket if you elect a waiver hearing or trial. If you are granted a PBJ for the speeding violation then you will not receive points on your record by the MVA. The offense will instead appear on your PBJ record. Prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officers, and some others can see your PBJ record. Fortunately, insurance companies and the general public cannot access the information.
When you cannot get a Probation Before Judgement in Maryland
- 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).
Practical Pointers for Getting PBJ
- As a defendant you should understand that most judges view that PBJ’s are something to be earned
- It should not be considered automatic for any first offense.
- At sentencing, no matter what judge it is, proper behavior, presentation, and appearance are key.
Drawbacks to Probation Before Judgements
There are some drawbacks to PBJ’s. Depending on your circumstances it may NOT be best to accept a PBJ.
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 violation of probation
- 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 the 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.
Can Probation Before Judgement Cases be Expunged?
If your case ends in a Probation Before Judgement (PBJ) in Maryland then your case may be eligible for expungement. This is only under specific circumstances. Such as if your case involved conduct that is no longer a crime.
In cases of DUI or DWI, probation before judgment cannot be expunged.
For more information about Probation Before Judgement and expungement watch the video below from the Maryland Courts.
Situations You May Not Get Probation Before Judgment
A judge MAY grant PBJ for almost any first-time conviction. But 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
The bottom line is that every case, every judge, every prosecutor, and every client is unique.
A PBJ is never guaranteed.
The Importance of Treatment in Getting a DUI PBJ in Maryland
Receiving probation before judgment on your Maryland DUI is of the utmost importance. However, just because you are a first time DUI/DWI offender, does not guarantee you will be granted a PBJ by the sitting judge.
We have handled hundreds of first time DUI and DWI cases. As such, our firm handles DUI cases differently than most other law firms. We will fight to defend your rights in court. We will investigate all of the possible defenses you may have, but YOU, the client, has a very important role outside of the courtroom.
Why Do I Need Treatment? It’s My First DUI Offense
Once again, a PBJ is never guaranteed. Thus, you have to give the judge a reason to grant you one.
In handling hundreds of Maryland DUI and DWI cases the easiest way to help ensure you are eligible for a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ), is treatment.
Treatment is integral in ensuring that the judge and prosecutor know that you are taking the charges seriously. That you intend to never re-offend. We have developed long-lasting relationships with several treatment providers. This ensures we are aware of the best way to help put your case in the best place possible before the court date.
Let’s be clear, pretrial treatment is not mandatory. It is recommended. If we represent you, we want to do everything possible to ensure that you are eligible for a PBJ on your first time Maryland DUI or DWI.
What Does Treatment Involve?
For a first time offender, it generally involves:
- Attending an initial assessment with a physician
- Attending alcohol education classes for several weeks
There are times where in-patient treatment may be recommended. But we always discuss these options with clients.
With the successful completion of the alcohol classes, the treatment center provides documentation. We can use it in court to convince the judge and prosecutor that you deserve a PBJ for your first time Maryland DUI or DWI.
Calm down, I’m not calling You an Alcoholic!
Yes, our firm handles cases for clients who have multiple DUI and DWI cases. However, in recommending treatment our firm is not judging you or telling you how to live your life.
We simply want to help you obtain the best possible outcome in court. As former prosecutors, and current defense attorneys, we know what efforts will help in persuading the judge to grant you a PBJ. The bottom line is that every case, every judge, every prosecutor, and every client is unique.
Can You Get a Maryland PBJ Twice for a DUI?
We are often asked by clients how they can get a 2nd probation before judgment for Maryland for a DUI or DWI charge?
The answer is that in some circumstances it is statutorily prohibited. Yet, in other situations, it is definitely possible. We even helped people get a 2nd PBJ.
In one case I had a client in District Court I with a 2nd DUI. His last DUI was 13 years earlier and he had no other criminal or traffic history. He received a PBJ on the DUI in 2001. In this case I was able to get him his 2nd PBJ in Maryland.
Crim. Pro. 6-220 Maryland PBJ
The PBJ statute specifically has a prohibition against obtaining 2 PBJ’s for a DUI/DWI within a 10-year time frame.
So, for example,
- if my client had been sentenced on January 2, 2004, for a DUI
- and was charged with the new offense on December 31, 2013,
- he would be able to obtain a 2nd PBJ
- because his sentencing date would be after January 3, 2014 (10 years since the first offense).
If he was pleading before January 2, 2014 (i.e. sometime in 2013) he would be statutorily barred from receiving a PBJ. That said, most judges across the State of Maryland will refuse to grant a PBJ to someone who has had one before. Regardless of how long it has been.
How do you fix this dilemma?
Extra Work on Client’s Part – You Need to Earn It!
As mentioned above: treatment, treatment, treatment. You don’t get a 2nd DUI without having some sort of alcohol problem.
Don’t try to deny it and don’t say that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. While we as your lawyers believe you, a judge won’t. Lightning doesn’t strike the same spot twice.
You need treatment. At least a weekend inpatient, AA meetings, and maybe even 28 days. My client who earned himself a 2nd Maryland PBJ did a weekend in-patient, aftercare, plus 4 AA meetings per week.
Extra Work on Lawyer’s Part – We Get it For You!
I spend the same amount of time working on all my client’s cases, large or small. But a 2nd time DUI requires a special set of eyes to review documents and to catch any mistake on the Police’s part.
In my client’s case, I was able to find and point out several technical errors in my client’s case that would have excluded the breath test and would have called the officer’s credibility into question.
The prosecutor, recognizing the issues in the case, agreed with me. He was willing to reduce the case from DUI to DWI and to not oppose a PBJ. That means that my client was now only looking at 60 days maximum in jail instead of 1 year. Now, I thought that my client had a great shot of beating the case at trial and we had the right judge. However, it’s not my call. My client wanted the guaranteed outcome of probation and didn’t want to “roll the dice” on a trial.
I respect all my client’s decisions and I think that he made the right call for him. As he earned the Maryland PBJ.
Bottomline on Probation Before Judgment in Maryland
If you’re charged with your first, second, or tenth Baltimore DUI, a speeding ticket, or other criminal or traffic violations…You need an experienced Baltimore DUI lawyer on your side. One who will work to get you the best possible result.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to common questions on Maryland PBJs.
Is Probation Before Judgment a conviction?
No. With a PBJ you receive probation without a conviction. This keeps your record conviction-free.
Does Probation Before Judgment Show on a Background Check?
No. Since your PBJ does not count legally as a conviction you will not have a criminal record. Though you still must complete the terms required by the court to keep it clean. Since it is not a conviction, you also do not need to share your PBJ with a potential employer.
Are probation before judgements public records?
No, PBJs are not available to the public.
What is the best way to get a probation before judgement?
In Maryland, the best way is to contact EN Lawyers who can guide you through the process.
Will a probation before judgement affect my security clearance?
A PBJ may affect your security clearance. You need to speak with your employer.