Probation Before Judgment (PBJ)

For a first-time offense, you may qualify for a disposition that allows you to avoid entering a plea or being convicted of the criminal offense. For instance, if you are charged with a first DUI or DWI in Baltimore, MD, a PBJ disposition, might be available in your case if you have no prior DUI or DWI convictions or if you have not had a DUI or DWI conviction or PBJ resolution within the last 10 years. A DUI conviction, DWI conviction, or prior PBJ resolution that is more than 10 years old will not necessarily make you ineligible for a PBJ resolution for this offense.

A PBJ resolution might be available for a first offense of the following crimes:

  • a first offense of DUI or DWI;
  • A violation of Maryland’s’ Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) or Drug Laws; or
  • A violation for a first-time offense of any felony or misdemeanor (unless on a list of ineligible offenses listed below).

Even for a repeat offense, unless the offense is prohibited by statute, the defendant might be eligible for a PBJ resolution if it can be demonstrated to the court, that the defendant is amenable to treatment through probation before judgment. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you get your case resolved in a way that allows you to escape a conviction or the requirement that you enter a plea in front of the judge.

You are not generally eligible for a PBJ for any of the following:

  • a second DUI or DWI offense within the last 10 years. In fact, if you have more than one conviction for DUI/DWI it will be difficult to obtain a PBJ;
  • a second violation for the Maryland Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS or Drug) laws;
  • a first-time enumerated sex crimes against a child;
  • any enumerated crime has a mandatory minimum penalty;
  • any traffic violations while driving on a provisional license and already having a PBJ.

PBJ is not always offered particularly for the following types of offense:

  • crimes of violence;
  • crimes involving larger quantities of drugs;
  • DUI or DWI with a high blood alcohol content result, and/or
  • any DUI-related offense with a crash causing injury or property damage.

The Downside of Entering PBJ

Entering PBJ is not for everyone. The downsides of agreeing to probation before judgment is that you will be subjected to a long period of supervision during which you must complete several special conditions. If you violate PBJ then you will be brought back before the judge for a violation of probation hearing. At the hearing, you can face jail time or incarceration.

In fact, Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 6-220 provides that: “On violation of a condition of probation, the court may enter judgment and proceed as if the defendant had not been placed on probation.” In other words, the judge can sentence the defendant up to the statutory maximum for the offense and conviction the defendant over the offense after a violation of probation hearing.

For professionals and those with licensure issues, a PBJ is almost as bad as a conviction. For instance, for a commercial driver and CDL holder in the State of Maryland, a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) is considered a conviction, even for a first DUI or DWI arrest, a first DUI or DWI arrest, under federal regulations and MD TA § 16-803(d).

The Benefits of Entering PBJ

Although not for everyone, entering probation before judgment does have advantages over going to trial and being adjudicated guilty of the underlying offense. As one court recently put it:
The disadvantages of a conviction, above and beyond incarceration, are self-evident—possible enhanced sentencing if convicted again, possible deportation, possible loss of the right to vote, disqualification for public office, possible loss of employment (as the judge articulated in this case), the rejection of one’s application to the country club. The consequences may be myriad, large and small. The debilitating stigma of conviction is harmful in and of itself.
State v. Smith, 230 Md. App. 214, 146 A.3d 1189, 1203–04 (2016)

Attorney for PBJ First Offenses in Baltimore, Maryland

With offices conveniently located in Baltimore and Catonsville, Maryland, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates serve clients throughout the city and county of Baltimore, and the surrounding areas including Catonsville, Bel Air, and Annapolis.

The attorneys at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We fight criminal charges, even a first offense, in the courtrooms throughout Baltimore as well as courtrooms in Catonsville, Annapolis, Bel Air, and the surrounding areas.

If you have been arrested for in the malicious destruction of property in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Carroll County or Harford, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney focused on resolving cases for probation before judgment (often called “PBJ”). Find out more about the pros and cons of this type of resolution.