Facing a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charge in Maryland can be a daunting and life-changing experience. However, the state offers an alternative disposition known as “Probation Before Judgment” (PBJ) that can provide a glimmer of hope for those involved in such cases.
While this article will explain what Probation Before Judgment means, how it works, and the benefits it offers for DUI offenders in Maryland, you need to understand that PBJ is not a guaranteed right and is typically at the judge’s discretion. Hence, it’s essential to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to help explore the possibility of Probation Before Judgment if you face a DUI in Maryland.
What is Probation Before Judgment?
Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) is a unique legal remedy available in some jurisdictions, including Maryland. It allows certain first-time offenders to avoid a traditional criminal conviction on their record.
Instead, it offers an opportunity to complete a probation period and, if successfully completed, results in no conviction being entered. Essentially, the court withholds judgment, giving the individual a second chance to redeem themselves.
When is PBJ Available in Maryland?
Specific rules that address PBJs from DUIs can be found in Maryland Criminal Procedure § 6-220. Here are some instances when it may or may not be available.
Probation Before Judgement may be available under the following circumstances.
- A first-time DUI/DWI offense, or if you haven’t had a PBJ or DUI/DWI conviction in the last ten years
- A first-time violation of Maryland’s controlled dangerous substance laws
- First-time charges for certain misdemeanor or felony violations
- Repeat offenses (unless statutorily prohibited) in which the defendant has shown the court that they can be successfully rehabilitated with treatment that PBJ provides.
Here are some instances in which PBJ would not be available.
- A second DUI/DWI offense in the last ten years
- Multiple violations of Maryland’s controlled dangerous substance laws
- Sex crimes against a child
- When the alleged crime has a specific minimum penalty, such as handgun offenses, narcotics-related crimes, and violent crimes
How Does Probation Before Judgment Work?
When a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty of a DUI offense, the judge may grant Probation Before Judgment under specific circumstances. Here’s how the process typically unfolds:
- Eligibility — PBJ is typically available for first-time DUI offenders with an otherwise clean criminal record. It is not an automatic entitlement and is at the judge’s discretion, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s background.
- Terms of Probation — If the judge grants Probation Before Judgment, the defendant will be placed on probation for a specific period. During this time, they must adhere to strict conditions, such as attending alcohol education programs and avoiding further criminal activity.
- Non-Compliance Consequences — Failure to comply with the terms of probation will result in the court revoking PBJ, leading to a conviction and potential sentencing for the original DUI offense.
Benefits of Probation Before Judgment for DUI Offenders in Maryland
Avoiding a Conviction
The most significant advantage of PBJ for DUI offenders is that they can escape the stigma of a criminal conviction on their record. This can be vital for maintaining future employment opportunities, securing housing, and preserving personal relationships.
PBJ allows first-time DUI offenders to learn from their mistakes and rehabilitate themselves. It recognizes that people can make errors in judgment and offers a path to redemption, fostering rehabilitation over punishment.
While DUI offenses in Maryland typically carry severe penalties, a successful PBJ can have lighter consequences than a standard conviction. This may include reduced fines, shorter license suspension periods, or less time spent in jail.
Insurance and Employment Considerations
With a DUI conviction, auto insurance rates can skyrocket, and certain employment opportunities may be limited. Individuals may mitigate these negative impacts on their prospects by avoiding a conviction through PBJ.
Let Jeremy Widder Law Help With Your Probation Before Judgment Case
Probation Before Judgment presents a unique opportunity for first-time DUI offenders in Maryland to regain control of their lives and move towards a better future. By offering a chance at redemption, avoiding a conviction, and providing an avenue for rehabilitation, PBJ stands as a promising alternative to traditional punitive measures.
If you’ve been charged with a drunk driving-related offense in Maryland, turn to Jeremy Widder Law. With the steep penalties associated with a DUI or DWI, you need the best representation you can find. Our team is ready to dedicate the time, energy, and resources to supporting you in your legal proceedings from start to finish.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.