What is a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ)?

by Professor Byron L. Warnken on August 17, 2010

If a Defendant is found guilty by a judge or a jury, or if a Defendant pleads guilty, the next step is sentencing.  The judge determines (1) whether to impose a sentence, and (2) if a sentence is imposed, whether to execute upon all of that sentence, some of that sentence, or none of that sentence.  If a judge elects not to impose a sentence, or elects to impose a sentence and then suspend some or all of that sentence, the judge usually places the Defendant on probation, either in lieu of incarceration or after completion of a period of incarceration.  A Circuit Court judge may impose up to five years probation, and a District Court judge may impose up to three years probation.  Some statutes mandate that a sentence be imposed, and/or mandate that an imposed sentence not be suspended, and/or mandate that the Maryland Parole Commission not parole or not parole for a period of time.  However, the majority of statutes grant broad discretion to judges regarding imposition and execution of sentences.

The sentence may be a sentence of probation or a sentence that has other components, but includes probation.  There are two kinds of probation.  One type of probation is probation after judgment.  The other type of probation is probation before judgment. Probation before judgment is nicknamed “PBJ.”  Both probation after judgment and probation before judgment are “probation.”  This means being “on the street,” in lieu of incarceration, but under the supervision of a probation agent.  Probation terms may range from intensive supervised probation, e.g., report weekly with a weekly drug test, to unsupervised probation, meaning have the probationer on a list, but no reporting requirement.

The big difference between the two probations is as follows.  Standard probation, i.e., probation after judgment, is part of a criminal conviction and, thus, creates a criminal record.  On the other hand, probation before judgment, once satisfactorily completed, is not a criminal conviction and does not create a criminal record.  Because probation before judgement is not a criminal conviction, once that period of probation has been completed, the probationer may file with the court to have the records expunged.  If there are no other criminal convictions and no other outstanding probations, obtaining expungement is possible.  Until there is expungement, the case remains on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website.  With expungement, all records in the case are deleted, and the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website shows nothing.

If the probationer is not a United States citizen, that person may be subject to deportation or exclusion based on a criminal conviction.  Under federal law, probation before judgment is treated as a criminal conviction, even though it is not treated as a criminal conviction under state law.

{ 1 comment }

E.Grant January 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm


Regarding Probation before Judgement, is there a time limit such with the Probation after Judgement. Three years (District Court) and five years (Circuit Court)?


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