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PBJ: What does it mean?

For anyone who has ever spent time in a courtroom, whether it be for a minor speeding ticket or a more serious traffic/criminal offense, the term probation before judgment, or “PBJ”, was probably used at some point. PBJ is often viewed as an extremely favorable result, but do you know why?

When a judge grants an individual a probation before judgment, that person is placed on probation prior to the entering of a judgment. This means that no conviction is entered, and you have therefore not been found guilty of that offense. For traffic violations, a PBJ eliminates the accompanying points associated with a conviction to the particular charge. This has tremendous benefits, as the Motor Vehicle Administration will attempt to suspend your driving privileges once you have 8 points on your record. Take, for instance, the charge of Driving While Impaired by Alcohol. This charge carries with it the imposition of 8 points on your driving record with a conviction, which would initiate the process of suspension. If granted PBJ, however, no points will hit your license, which is also very favorable for your car insurance. For criminal charges, a PBJ allows the judge to place you on a period of probation, and that charge may be eligible to be expunged after the successful completion of the term of probation.

There are limitations, however, for the circumstances in which a PBJ can be granted. For example, a judge is prohibited by law from granting a probation before judgment for second or subsequent DUI/DWI, if the most recent DUI/DWI conviction or PBJ occurred within the last 10 years. Additionally, the law either severely limits or prohibits the granting of a PBJ for a second controlled dangerous substance conviction, as well as for charges related to sexual crimes against children.

While this is an extremely favorable result, there are some things that you must be aware of to decide if accepting a PBJ, if offered, is in your best interest. Perhaps the most important thing to know about a PBJ is that in order to accept, you must waive your right to appeal. This is because there is not a conviction to appeal. If you have a legitimate trial issue in your case, it may be more sensible to not accept PBJ and exercise your appeal rights. Additionally, a PBJ may not have the same benefits for you that it might have for someone in different circumstances. For example, if you are not a United States Citizen, or if you have a Commercial Driver’s License, a PBJ may have same effect as a conviction.

What is important to know is that just because you may be statutorily eligible for a PBJ, that discretion lies solely with the judge and is viewed as a disposition that must be earned. Therefore, it is imperative that you take the matter seriously, present appropriately and get involved with any and all recommended treatment to give yourself the best chance. If you find yourself in need of representation, please call us at (410) 927-5137 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys here at SZA.
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