If you have been arrested for your first crime, you may be worried and scared. You may also be wondering what sort of options you have. Maryland has a program for first-time offenders that may help you. The Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) law allows offenders to complete a probation program without having a conviction on your record. Here are a few things you should know about PBJ:
- What is probation? Probation is generally part of a sentence for a crime. On probation, you can live and work in the community, but you may have a set of conditions to meet and restrictions to follow for a period of time. You may report to a probations agent or attend a treatment program as part of your probation. When your probation term is up, you are free to go about your life as normal.
- How is PBJ different? Normally, a judge issues probation as part of a guilty plea or after a court conviction. The main difference with PBJ is that the judge removes the "conviction" if you agree to the conditions of the probation. That can make a big difference to your future. You may not appeal the PBJ if you agree to it.
- Expungement. With a PBJ, you can usually request that the court expunge your record once you successfully complete your probation terms. If the court expunges your record, they will remove the charge as if it never happened. There are a few charges, however, that the court will not expunge under PBJ. If you are charged with a DUI, you cannot expunge it from your record, but you can still honestly say you have not been convicted of a crime on employment applications. Some employers, such as federal government contractors, still treat the PBJ as a conviction, however.
- First-time offenses. The point of PBJ is to give first-time offenders a second chance by preventing them from having a criminal record. Second or third offenses are generally not eligible.
Probation before judgment can be a useful tool for some people to avoid a conviction on their record. It does have its down-sides, as well, depending on the charges you face. Hopefully you now have a little more information to help you decide if PBJ is the right solution for you.