A PB&J is delicious. A PBJ – Probation Before Judgment – is an actual remedy that is issued in many nonserious criminal charges to help a defendant avoid prison time. You can think of PBJ as a “sandwich” remedy, though, which combines an outer layer of being placed on probation with the softer inner layer of avoiding a criminal conviction on your record if you successfully complete the terms of the probation.

(Too far with the sandwich metaphor? Maybe. But I like it, anyway.)

Probation Before Judgement means that the defendant is not found guilty of the offense for which they’ve been charged. It is often an option in driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) cases. If defendants comply with the PBJ requirements, they can state on job applications and other applications that they have not been convicted of a crime.

PBJ requirements

The eligibility requirements for PBJ are set forth in the Maryland Code’s criminal procedure section. 6 -220. The core requirements are:

  • You must plead nolo contendere (it basically means “no contest”)
  • The PBJ arrangement will serve the best interests of the defendant and the public
  • The defendant agrees to the PBJ terms in writing
  • The defendant participates pays restitution if restitution is ordered and pays any fines that are ordered
  • Defendants may be ordered to a custodial confinement such as home detention, an inpatient drug or alcohol program, or a corrections program that includes a combination of home confinement and inpatient treatment
  • An evaluation may be ordered for certain offenses

Essentially, the defendant gets a break. He/she pleads to the offense but then the charges are placed on hold provided the defendant completes the terms of the probation. If the defendant fully completes the PBJ, the charges are dropped.

When is PBJ available?

With some exceptions, PBJ can be used for:

  • First-time DUI and DWI offenses
  • A second-time DUI or DWI offense if the first conviction is more than 10 years old
  • First-time Maryland controlled dangerous substance charges
  • Certain misdemeanors and felonies – if they are first-time charges
  • Repeat offenses that are not prohibited by law, provided the defendant can show the reasonable likelihood of rehabilitation through treatment.

PBJ and traffic offenses

A PBJ is generally available for traffic offenses unless there was an accident which involved a DUI or DWI, or there was violence. Transporting a lot of drugs knocks PBJ off the table, too. So will a super high BAC, even if it’s your first offense.

Defendants who are charged with a traffic offense do need to review with their defense lawyer whether there are any consequences if they’re not a citizen, have a CDL, or have a security clearance. A PBJ may not protect your record if any of these is the case.

While a PBJ is not a criminal conviction, law enforcement will know that you have a PBJ on your record so you may not be eligible for a second PBJ unless substantial time has elapsed. Again, PBJs are at the discretion of the judge unless there is a specific law that precludes a PBJ such as the ten-year waiting period for DUI offenses.

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, our Annapolis and Ellicott defense lawyers often work to resolve your charges so you don’t risk imprisonment. Resolving you case can mean reducing your offenses. It can also mean asking for PBJ approval of your charges. When alternatives are not available, we seek to obtain dismissals and acquittals. For help understanding how the criminal process works, call our Maryland criminal defense at 410-271-1892, or use our contact form to make an appointment.

And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.