Maryland probation before judgment, often abbreviated PBJ, is a disposition that is usually much better than a finding of guilt, but worse than a stet, nol pros, dismissal, acquittal, or not guilty verdict. It is not a finding of guilt, nor is it one of not guilty. It is a way that a judge can sentence you if you have been found guilty, while saving you from some of the consequences of that finding.
Despite the misleading name, receiving a disposition of probation before judgment does not necessarily mean that you will or will not be put on probation, or that you will or will not receive a sentence that includes jail. If the PBJ comes with a period of probation, it can be revoked for a violation of that probation, and you can be given any sentence that the judge could have given when you were granted PBJ.
A probation before judgment, or PBJ, means that the judge found you guilty, struck the finding of guilt, and entered a finding of PBJ. It means that despite the finding of guilt, the judge decided not to convict you as a matter of judicial grace, or occasionally, because your binding plea agreement required it.
In order to receive a PBJ, you need to give up your right to appeal. If you are found guilty and you want to appeal, you should not accept a disposition of probation before judgment. You cannot be forced to accept a disposition of probation before judgment if you do not want one. If you reject an offer of probation before judgment at sentencing, you will be found guilty instead.
Probation Before Judgment Effects
There are several reasons that you might want a finding of probation before judgment. These are also considerations that a judge or prosecutor might take in to account when deciding whether you should receive probation before judgment.
License and Motor Vehicle Administration Consequences
One of the reasons that PBJ is granted is in order to avoid consequences at the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), to include suspension and license revocation. A PBJ does not result in points, and will generally avoid any MVA consequences for conviction. There are some notable exceptions, such as penalties for drivers with a provisional license, and penalties for a failure to take a breath test, or a high breath test result in a DUI or DWI case, among others.
A PBJ goes in your probation before judgment record at the Motor Vehicle Administration, which is not generally available to insurers. This can keep your insurance costs from going up. A guilty verdict for a traffic offense would go in your regular driving record, which is visible to insurers.
Disclosure on Applications
A finding of probation before judgment need not be disclosed in Maryland in response to a question that asks for information about convictions, because a PBJ is not a conviction under Maryland law. This can make a big difference on a job application, or an application for admission to college or for university admission.
An expungement is usually available after three years if you receive a Maryland PBJ, with some exceptions. A guilty disposition usually cannot be expunged in Maryland, but there are a growing number of exceptions. Probation before judgment is often granted so that you will eventually have an opportunity to expunge a crime from your record.
A Maryland probation before judgment is generally considered a conviction for United States immigration purposes. Do not expect that a finding of probation before judgment will help you avoid becoming inadmissible or deportable if you are not a United States citizen.
Repeat Offender Status
Most Maryland laws allowing or mandating larger penalties for repeat offenders require that the previous offense is a conviction. A PBJ is not a conviction under Maryland law, so a repeat offender that received a PBJ the first time is usually not considered a repeat offender, and will not face the higher maximum or minimum sentence that goes with being a repeat offender.
Changing your Disposition to Probation Before Judgment
You may have a disposition of guilty and need a probation before judgment disposition. I can help you get the disposition you need up front, by representing you initially at your trial date. I can also sometimes change your disposition to PBJ or not guilty after the fact, even if someone else represented you previously. One of the ways that I can do that is to appeal your case. I could also represent you on a motion for reconsideration, a post conviction proceeding, or regarding a writ of coram nobis. There are also other ways that I might be able to help change the verdict in your case, not discussed here.
It is much easier to get something right the first time than it is to fix it after the fact. If at all possible, contact me as soon as you are charged and well before your trial date so that I can make sure that you get the right result the first time. However, if someone else represented you and it did not turn out the way that you would like, I can still help. I can often change the result in your case to something that has less severe consequences, possibly a finding of probation before judgment, or to not guilty or some other disposition that you need. It is best to do this through an appeal if at all possible, which I can help you with, but if the time to appeal has passed, I still will often be able to help you.
If you have been charged with a crime, call me at (301) 556‑8709, because an effective attorney can help ensure that you get the right verdict.