Traffic Violations and Offenses
What Is a Probation Before Judgement (PBJ) In a Maryland Traffic or Criminal Case?
A Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) is not a conviction. A PBJ is granted in several types of cases, including but not limited to, minor traffic infractions, serious traffic infractions, and criminal cases. At court, a Defendant will enter a Guilty plea. The Judge will accept the Guilty plea and will hear the information or evidence to consider offering the Defendant a PBJ. If the judge offers a PBJ disposition, the Defendant will have to accept the PBJ and agree to waive their right to appeal. If a PBJ is granted, the judge will go back and strike the Guilty plea to enter to Probation Before Judgment disposition. Given that the judge is striking the Guilty disposition and entering the PBJ, this allows a Defendant to avoid the consequences of a conviction. Upon the entry of a PBJ, a judge may specify the conditions of Probation, including but not limited to, whether you will be placed on supervised or unsupervised probation, any court costs and/or probation supervision costs if applicable, and any other conditions you may be ordered to complete and obey during the length (term) of probation.
Since a PBJ is not a conviction, it will not appear on a background check and will not create a criminal record. PBJ’s are not available to the public, and do not need to be disclosed to potential employers.
For certain cases, your case may be eligible for expungement. If you are interested to see whether your case(s) would be eligible for expungement, contact our office for a free consultation.
When Can You Get a Probation Before Judgement (PBJ)?
PBJ is granted at the discretion of the judge and is never guaranteed. However, a PBJ is often granted:
- For minor and serious traffic infractions if a PBJ has not previously been entered in another case, and depending on the licensee’s driving record/accumulation of points within the past 3 years from the date of offense;
- For first-time DUI or DWI offenses who offer mitigation;
- For a DUI or DWI if you have not had a conviction or PBJ within the last ten years who offer additional mitigation;
- A first-time violation of Maryland Controlled Dangerous Substance laws;
- Any first-time offense of any felony or misdemeanor violation of Maryland law, with some exceptions; or
- For any repeat offense, unless statutorily prohibited, where the defendant can demonstrate to the court that they are able to be successfully rehabilitated with treatment through PBJ.
When Are You Eligible But Unlikely to Get a PBJ?
It is important to remember a PBJ is never guaranteed. A PBJ may be granted under the following circumstances for any first-time conviction, but is usually not offered for:
- Violent crimes;
- Where large quantities of drugs are involved;
- A DUI with a high BAC; and/or
- DUI’s where there was an accident.
When Are You Not Eligible for a PBJ?
There are certain circumstances that make a defendant ineligible for a PBJ. These are:
- A second DUI or DWI offense within the last 10 years;
- A second drug violation for the Maryland Dangerous Substances laws;
- First offense sex crimes against a child;
- Traffic violations while driving on a provisional license and already having a PBJ; and
- When the enumerated crime has a mandatory minimum penalty. Examples include but are not limited to certain violations of narcotics laws, handgun violations, or violent crimes.
How Long Does a PBJ Last?
The maximum time a PBJ may last is determined by the judge and varies depending on whether it is in a District Court or Circuit Court. In District Court a judge may give a maximum probation term of 3 years. In Circuit Court the probation term may be up to 5 years.
For many minor traffic infractions, a PBJ will generally span one (1) day; the same day your Trial date was held on. A judge may impose a longer time frame. However, if there is no time frame specified by the judge or listed on your Trial Summary documents, the likely term of probation is one day.
In some instances, you may be eligible to request the court to consider modifying probation from supervised probation to unsupervised probation for the remainder of the probation term.
Are There Issues With a PBJ?
PBJ’s often will only be granted once, and under some circumstances a PBJ is not in your best interest. If you are a non-US citizen a PBJ can have serious immigration consequences. Although a PBJ is not a conviction under state law, it is a conviction under federal law for immigration purposes. If you have security clearance, a commercial drivers license, or another special circumstance, a PBJ may have adverse consequences.
Additionally, you will be placed on probation for a set period of time within the statutory limits, sometimes this is supervised. If you violate the terms of your probation, you face the entire sentence when bought in front of the judge for your violation. You also give up your right to appeal your case.
How Do You Get a PBJ?
As mentioned, a PBJ is never guaranteed, but it is what you do as mitigation in advance of your Trial that will increase the likelihood of being granted a PBJ. Meaning, for minor speeding infractions, you should consider completing a state certified Driver Improvement Program. For criminal assault cases, you may consider completing an Anger Management, Domestic Violence education class, and/or community service hours in advance of Trial. If you are facing a DUI / DWI, you should consider completing a Drug/Alcohol Evaluation and any recommended treatment, MADD or Victim Impact Panel completion, Community Service Hours, and/or attending AA Meetings regularly. Depending on the level of BAC, seriousness of an accident, etc., you may be recommended to complete inpatient Drug/Alcohol treatment and other classes.
It is imperative you understand that judges view PBJ as something that is earned. To increase your chances of receiving a PBJ, it is important to show the judge you take the charges against you seriously and are making efforts to change your behavior and ensure you do not re-offend. The best way to do this and ensure you are eligible for a PBJ is by completing the above-referenced classes depending on the charges you are facing.
What Is Treatment?
Treatment shows the judge and prosecutor you take the charges against you seriously and intend to avoid another offense. Pre-trial treatment is not mandatory but is highly recommended.
Treatment usually involves attending an initial assessment with a physician and attending an alcohol education class. There are many options for treatment varying in length of time and requirements depending upon your unique situation. After completion of the course, the treatment center provides certification of your completion of the course which is used in court to show the judge you have made efforts to improve your situation.
Every case and judge are unique. To achieve a successful outcome in your case it is important to find a reputable criminal defense attorney. Understand a PBJ is not always guaranteed, and in some circumstances is not the most beneficial option. If you have been charged with a DUI, DWI, or other offense, call our office today to find out whether probation before judgment is an option for you.
Did you have a criminal legal issue in the Maryland area? Esworthy Law can help.
Esworthy Law is a Maryland criminal/traffic defense firm with knowledge and experience handling expungement and shielding petitions. Justin Esworthy and Kristen Martin handle cases in several Maryland jurisdictions including Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Harford County, Carroll County, Cecil County and Queen Anne’s County. Contact Esworthy Law anytime at 443-354-1405 for a free consultation about your case.
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