Probation before judgment, also known as “P.B.J.” in Maryland, is a disposition or outcome a person may receive in a criminal or traffic case.
Probation before judgment is determined by the judge. Although your Baltimore criminal defense lawyer and the state may propose or suggest a PBJ, the final decision lies with the judge.
Maryland Law for Probation Before Judgment
Maryland Criminal Procedure Article 6-220(b) states the law as it pertains to probation before judgment. The PBJ laws states in part:
“Criminal Procedure 6-220(b)(1) When a defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere or is found guilty of a crime, a court may stay the entering of judgment, defer further proceedings, and place the defendant on probation subject to reasonable conditions if: (i) the court finds that the best interests of the defendant and the public welfare would be served; and (ii) the defendant gives written consent after determination of guilt or acceptance of a nolo contendere plea.”
What does it mean when a court “stays” the entering of judgment? This means the judge has not acted on or entered the finding of guilty and thus the defendant has not been found guilty.
What Does PBJ Mean?
PBJ means a person has not been convicted, even though a judge or jury may find a defendant guilty.
The court will strike the “guilty” finding and enter a “probation before judgment.” In other terms, the courts stays the finding of guilt and enters probation before judgment.
Can You Always Get a Probation Before Judgment?
Probation before judgment is available in most criminal and traffic cases in Maryland. However, some cases and charges are not eligible for a PBJ.
There are 4 scenarios or circumstances when a defendant may not receive a probation before judgment in a Maryland case. Those four scenarios are:
- If the defendant is convicted of a violation of §21-902 of the Transportation Article (DUI & DWI offenses) or §2-503, §2-504, §2-505, §2-506, or §3-211 of the Criminal Law Article, and within the preceding 10 years the defendant has been convicted under §21-902 of the Transportation Article or §2-503, §2-504, §2-505, §2-506, or §3-211 of the Criminal Law Article, or has been placed on probation in accordance with this section, after being charged with a violation of § 21-902 of the Transportation Article or §2-503, §2-504, §2-505, §2-506, or §3-211 of the Criminal Law Article;
- a second or subsequent controlled dangerous substance crime under Title 5 of the Criminal Law Article, except that the court may stay the entering of judgment and place a defendant on probation for possession of a controlled dangerous substance under §5-601 of the Criminal Law Article if:
- the defendant has been convicted once previously of or received probation before judgment once previously for possession of a controlled dangerous substance under §5-601 of the Criminal Law Article;
- the court requires the defendant to graduate from drug court or successfully complete a substance abuse treatment program as a condition of probation; and
- the defendant graduates from drug court or successfully completes a substance abuse treatment program as required;
- A violation of any of the provisions of §§3-303 through 3-307, §§3-309 through 3-312, §3-315, or §3-602 of the Criminal Law Article for a crime involving a person under the age of 16 years; or
- A moving violation, as defined in §11-136.1 of the Transportation Article, if:
- the defendant holds a provisional license under § 16–111 of the Transportation Article; and
- the defendant has previously been placed on probation under this section for the commission of a moving violation while the defendant held a provisional license.
Is Probation Before Judgment a Conviction in Maryland?
No, a PBJ is not a conviction in Maryland. If a defendant receives a PBJ then the guilty finding has been stricken and the defendant has not been found guilty. Therefore, a PBJ is not a conviction in Maryland.
Is PBJ a Guilty Plea?
PBJ, or probation before judgment, is not a plea but a disposition/outcome in a criminal case. For a defendant to receive a PBJ as a disposition, one must make a plea of guilty.
However, there are various types of forms of a guilty plea depending on the court location for the criminal matter. In District Courts for Maryland, there is an option to plea “not guilty agreed statements of facts.”
A not guilty agreed statement of facts is tantamount to a guilty plea, the defendant is pleading not guilty but accepting the facts as true that will read into the record by the State’s Attorney.
That means the judge will hear the facts of the case, usually read from the Statement of Charges, and the Judge will more likely than not find the defendant guilty. The judge then has the option to strike the guilty finding and enter probation before judgment.
The other plea is a guilty plea, which is used in the District and Circuit Courts in Maryland. Once a defendant makes a guilty plea or pleads “not guilty agreed statement of facts,” then the Judge will make the decision to offer probation before judgment (PBJ).
Can You Expunge a DUI PBJ in Maryland?
No, you cannot expunge a DUI PBJ in Maryland.
As stated in Maryland Criminal Procedure 10-105: “…A person who has been charged with the commission of a crime, including a violation of the Transportation Article for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed…….may file a petition listing relevant facts for expungement of a police record, court record, or other record maintained by the State or a political subdivision of the State if: (3) a probation before judgment is entered, unless the person is charged with a violation of § 21–902 of the Transportation Article….”
Section 21-902 of the Transportation Article is the section of the code that contains the DUI and DWI crimes in Maryland. Therefore, a DUI PBJ in Maryland cannot be expunged.
How Long Do You Stay on Probation Before Judgment?
Probation before judgment is a disposition and is entered by the judge at the time of sentencing. If the judge orders a period of probation after the entry of the PBJ, then that is the time one must stay on probation after a PBJ is entered. The maximum period of probation varies depending on the District of Circuit Court.
A District Court judge can only place a defendant on probation for up to 3 years. Whereas, a Circuit Court judge may place a defendant on probation for up to 5 years.
Is Probation Before Judgment Bad?
If a judge grants defendant probation before judgment, the defendant must waive their right to appeal. By waiving your right to appeal, then the case can not be appealed to a higher court.
You should consult with your lawyer before accepting a PBJ. If the defendant is not satisfied with the PBJ, then they would not be able to appeal their case if they accept the PBJ.
What Does PBJ Unsupervised Mean?
“PBJ unsupervised” means that an individual is granted or given a probation before judgment (PBJ) and unsupervised means that the defendant is unsupervised, or does not have to physically report in person to a probation officer, during the period of probation. Unsupervised probation means the defendant does not have to report to a parole and probation agent but is still on probation during the proscribed period of time as ordered by the judge.
Can I go to Jail if the Judge Grants Probation Before Judgement?
Yes, a Judge could still require you to complete some period of incarceration, a PBJ does not guarantee any jail time.
Who Can Get a PBJ in Maryland?
Anyone can receive a PBJ in Maryland including probation before judgment for driving while under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI).
There are situations when a person cannot receive a PBJ in Maryland. Those include:
- A PBJ for a DUI if you have been convicted or received a PBJ for a DUI in the past 10 years.
- You cannot receive a PBJ for possession of CDS if previously convicted of possession of CDS unless the defendant has completed certain condition after the previous conviction
- There is no option for a PBJ if you are convicted of certain sexual offenses; and
- Any moving violations if the driver holds a provisional license and the driver has been previously been placed on probation for a moving violation.
How Does a PBJ Work in Maryland?
Once a Maryland probation before judgment is entered, the Judge will typically place the defendant on a period of supervised or unsupervised probation. The probation can be supervised by Maryland Parole and Probation. There are various divisions of Parole or Probation that can supervise an individual including:
- Drinking Driving Monitor Program;
- Parole and Probation;
- Sexual Offender Management Team; or
- Alternative Community Service.
In addition to a period of probation, the Court may also order the defendant to pay fines and costs to the Court. The Court may also direct the person who receives a PBJ to complete community service or pay restitution to the victim in the case.
If you receive a PBJ from a District Court Judge, probation can last for a maximum of 3 years. A probation before judgment from a Circuit Court Judge can last up to 5 years. If you want to read the full text of the PBJ rules, check out Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 6-220.
What Will I Have to Do During Probation?
The judge may require you to complete a number of tasks or conditions during your probation, including, but not limited to:
- Pay a fine;
- Pay court costs;
- Make restitution to the victims of the crime;
- Participate in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program;
- Complete community service;
- Complete a hospital program, visit a hospital;
The Benefits of a Probation Before Judgment in Maryland
What are the benefits of a probation before judgment in Maryland? In traffic cases, the benefit of a probation before judgment is the Motor Vehicle Administration will not assess points to the driver’s driving record. This can be key in ensuring the driver’s insurance rates do not increase as the PBJ record is not public record and not accessible by the insurance companies.
One of the other benefits of a Maryland probation before judgment is a person is able to expunge the charge from their record. However, an expungement for a PBJ cannot be filed in Maryland if the defendant was charged with drunk driving/DUI/DWI.
In addition, a person is not eligible for expungement of a PBJ if, within 3 years of the entry of probation, the individual has been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation or a crime where the act is no longer a crime in Maryland.
To receive a probation before judgment, you must waive your right to appeal. The Court will ask the defendant on the record in the Courtroom if they wish to waive their right to appeal and accept the PBJ.
IN WHAT TYPES OF CASES WOULD I BE REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE IN DRUG OR ALCOHOL TREATMENT AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS?
If you have been granted probation before judgment for the following types of cases, the Judge may require that you are evaluated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol;
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol per se;
- Driving while impaired by alcohol;
- Driving while impaired by drugs or drugs and alcohol;
- Driving while impaired by controlled dangerous substance;
- Homicide by motor vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or the influence of alcohol per se;
- Homicide by motor vehicle or vessel while impaired by alcohol;
- Homicide by motor vehicle or vessel while impaired by drugs;
- Homicide by motor vehicle or vessel while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance.
Violating Probation Before Judgment in Maryland?
What happens if you violate probation before judgment in Maryland? Violating a PBJ could result in the judge you appeared before and granted the PBJ to violate your probation. The judge may ignore the violation, issue a summons for a hearing or issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you are found in violation of probation, then the judge may sentence you to the maximum penalty for the offense.
Can You Expunge a Probation Before Judgment in Maryland?
Yes, you can expunge a PBJ or probation before judgment in Maryland, but there are some conditions. If probation before judgment was entered, and the offense is no longer a crime, then you may file for expungement immediately.
If you received a probation before judgment, and the offense is still a crime, you must wait 3 years from the end of the probation period or the date in which the PBJ was entered in the court.
Therefore, if you received a PBJ and were placed on 1 year of probation, then you could file 4 years from the date the probation before judgment was entered.
However, if the court did not order probation, then the expungement petition may be filed 3 years after the date of disposition.
A general waiver and release are not required when filing an expungement of probation before judgment since the statute of limitations would have run by that date. In Maryland, the general statute of limitations for civil claims is 3 years.
Probation Before Judgment for a Speeding Ticket
Drivers that are charged with a speeding ticket in Maryland, and elect a waiver hearing or trial, have the ability to receive a PBJ. The judge must grant the probation before judgment for a speeding ticket. If a judge grants the PBJ for a speed violation, then the MVA will not assess points to the driver’s record. Instead, the speeding offense will appear on the driver’s PBJ record, which is not accessible to the general public or insurance companies.
Hire a Lawyer for a PBJ in Maryland
Charged with a DUI/DWI, traffic ticket or a criminal charge in Maryland can be scary. Worrying about the possible outcomes, including probation before judgment, can cause a lot of sleepless nights.
A PBJ for a first time DUI or DWI can make a lot of the consequences a lot easier to deal with. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can be helpful in getting you a PBJ for the first time DUI or DWI charge in Maryland.
If you are facing criminal or traffic charges, contact attorney Randolph Rice today (410) 694-7291 to discuss your case and if your charges are eligible for a PBJ.