The Ironic Benefits of Probation Before Judgment

One of the great things about America is that we are a litigious society. The very bedrock of our nation is one of legal action, the invoking and protection of rights, and of course, the due process of a court of law. This applies to every kind of legal interaction we have, and that includes the feared DUI charge. Campaigning by groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has transformed DUI laws in this country over the past few decades; whereas once such laws were few and far between, today they are in practically every state. Yet, how each state chooses to apply and prosecute those laws changes; in Maryland, Probation Before Judgement (PBJ) applies.

When Probation Before Judgment Applies

PBJ is legal shorthand for “Probation Before Judgment.” What this means is that you can be placed on probation before a judgment is entered in your case and if you are not found guilty of the crime. At first, this can seem like an incredibly inconvenient and highly illegal move against you by the legal system, but in fact it is a blessing in disguise. While you are under the effects of PBJ, you can honestly say that you have never been convicted of a crime on any job applications that you are filling out, your car insurance rates may still go up, but you may be able to get your PBJ expunged from your record after completing probation.

You can get probation before judgment in only certain cases, however. You will not always be eligible, so it is important to know what your options are when a case is brought against you. If this is your first DUI or DWI offense, or you haven’t been convicted of a DUI or DWI in over ten years, then you should qualify. Additionally, if this is your first time violating the Maryland Controlled Dangerous Substances laws, you’ll qualify, as well as if you are charged as a first time offender for certain other criminal charges. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to that rule, however.

When PBJ Doesn’t Apply

There are many times when a defendant will not qualify for Probation Before Judgment. If this is your second (or more) DUI or DWI in the past ten years, then you will not qualify. Nor will you qualify for PBJ if this is your second time violating the Maryland Controlled Dangerous Substances laws. Even if this is your first time committing a sex crime, if it is against a child, you definitely will not qualify for PBJ, nor will you qualify if the crime has a mandatory minimum penalty. (Such as with narcotics, handgun violations, and violent crimes like murder.) If you can manage it, though, other than a complete acquittal or having all of the charges dropped, a PBJ is definitely the best outcome for someone going through the legal system for the first (and hopefully last!) time.

About Andrew Alpert

+Andrew is one of the leading DUI and criminal defense attorneys in both the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. He blogs about Maryland DUI law, has numerous videos on the subject and has been asked to appear on national television to offer his legal opinion on high-profile criminal cases.