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Published on 5/31/2024, 2:24:00 PM

Understanding Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) in Maryland: What It Means for Your Criminal Record

Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) is a unique legal option in Maryland that can have significant benefits for individuals facing criminal charges. It allows defendants to avoid a formal conviction, which can be crucial for maintaining a clean record and mitigating the long-term impact of a criminal charge. This blog post will explore what PBJ is, who is eligible for it, the benefits and drawbacks, and how an attorney can help secure this favorable outcome.

What is Probation Before Judgment (PBJ)?

PBJ stands for Probation Before Judgment. It is a disposition offered by the court where the judge withholds entering a judgment of conviction and places the defendant on probation instead. If the defendant successfully completes the probation period without further legal issues, the case is closed without a conviction being recorded. The statutory authority for this disposition is Md. Code, Crim. Proc. Section 6-220.

How Does a PBJ Work?

When a defendant is granted a PBJ, they are placed on probation for a specified period. During this time, the defendant must comply with the terms set by the court, which may include regular check-ins with a probation officer, community service, attending treatment programs, or other conditions tailored to the offense and the individual's circumstances. Successfully fulfilling these requirements means the defendant avoids a criminal conviction.

Different types of PBJs under Maryland law

There are two different types of PBJs in Maryland. Maryland just added a new immigration friendly PBJ, commonly called a PBJ(C). A PBJ under Md. Code, Crim. Proc. Section 6-220(b) is commonly referred to as just a "PBJ".

PBJ (C)

Maryland is home to a variety of people who do not seem to get the intended benefit of a "PBJ". This is especially apparent in the context of legal permanent residents for whom a traditional PBJ might still incur removal from the United States. Based upon this, the Maryland legislature created a new form of PBJ, which is contained in Md. Code, Crim. Proc. Section 6-220(c). You can read more about it here.

Eligibility Criteria

Not everyone is eligible for PBJ. Generally, it is available to first-time offenders and those charged with less severe crimes. Factors that the court may consider include:

  • The nature and severity of the offense
  • The defendant's criminal history
  • The likelihood of the defendant reoffending
  • The impact of a conviction on the defendant's future

For example, individuals facing their first DUI offense or minor drug charges may be good candidates for PBJ; however, those charged with a second or third DUI may not be eligible or considered for a PBJ.

Benefits of PBJ

Avoiding a Criminal Conviction

The most significant benefit of PBJ is that it allows defendants to avoid a formal conviction. This can be crucial for maintaining employment opportunities, housing, and other aspects of life that can be negatively impacted by a criminal record.

Expungement Opportunities

In some cases, once the probation period is successfully completed, the record of the arrest and the PBJ disposition may be eligible for expungement. This means that the record can be removed from public databases, further helping to mitigate the impact on the defendant's future.

Tailored Probation Terms

The terms of probation under PBJ can often be tailored to the individual's circumstances. This might include conditions that address the underlying issues related to the offense, such as substance abuse treatment for DUI offenders.

Drawbacks of PBJ

While PBJ has many benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

Probation Compliance

Defendants must comply with all terms of probation. Failure to do so can result in the court entering a judgment of conviction and imposing the original sentence. This means that even minor infractions or technical violations during the probation period can have serious consequences.

Limited Availability

PBJ is not available for all offenses or for all defendants. Those with prior convictions or those charged with more serious crimes may not be eligible. Additionally, certain types of offenses, such as some violent crimes, may be excluded from PBJ consideration by the Court.

The Role of an Attorney in Securing PBJ

Navigating the process to secure PBJ can be complex, and having an experienced attorney can be crucial. An attorney can:

  • Evaluate Eligibility: Determine if you are eligible for PBJ based on the specifics of your case.
  • Negotiate with Prosecutors: Work to convince the prosecution and the court that PBJ is an appropriate disposition for your case.
  • Ensure Compliance: Help you understand and comply with the terms of probation to successfully complete the PBJ period.

At FrizWoods LLC, our attorneys have extensive experience in securing favorable outcomes for our clients, including obtaining PBJ for eligible defendants. We understand the nuances of Maryland's criminal justice system and can provide the guidance and representation needed to achieve the best possible outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I violate the terms of my PBJ?

If you violate the terms of your probation, the court may enter a judgment of conviction after a violation of probation hearing and impose the original sentence for the offense. It is crucial to comply with all probation conditions to avoid this outcome.

Can PBJ be granted for any type of offense?

Yes; however, a PBJ is typically available for less severe offenses and for first-time offenders. Serious offenses and those with prior convictions may not be eligible.

How can PBJ affect my future?

Successfully completing PBJ means you avoid a formal conviction, which can significantly reduce the impact on your future employment, housing, and other opportunities. In some cases, the record may also be eligible for expungement.

Do I need a lawyer to get PBJ?

While it is not mandatory to have a lawyer, having experienced legal representation can greatly increase your chances of securing PBJ. An attorney can negotiate on your behalf and help ensure you meet all probation requirements.

Conclusion

Understanding and securing Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) in Maryland can be a valuable option for avoiding the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction. At FrizWoods LLC, we are committed to helping our clients navigate this process and achieve the best possible outcomes. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with your case.