Can You Explain The Plea Deal for This DUI? Lawyer Says...

This week, our criminal lawyers respond to a Marylander who's been offered a plea deal for their DUI charge, but isn't sure what it means.

The Question: What's the difference between probation & PBJ?

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I was charged with a DUI in February. My court date is tomorrow. I have received a deal from the prosecutor of my case to plead guilty to DWI, and they will drop the DUI and all other charges. I would receive probation or PBJ for 1 year, during which I cannot get into any trouble.
Does anyone know if I get probation, does that mean that after the year is over, will the DWI still be on my record or not? Are probation and probation before judgment the same thing? Or are they different?

The Answer: The plea deal will not take the DUI or DWI charge off your record, but it may keep you out of jail with your license. A PBJ is basically a sentence of probation without the official guilty verdict.

You have two questions here about the DWI charge itself, as well as the difference between the possible sentences.

First of all, DUIs and DWIs are a matter of public record. Anyone can search your name on Maryland's online case search for free and find the traffic charge, as well as a wealth of information about the incident and yourself.

However, DUI and DWI charges might be able to be "expunged" -- removed -- from the public record... so long as there's not a conviction of "guilty" (or a PBJ entered, which we'll explain in a moment).

Therefore, pleading guilty to the DWI charge may lock in the case as a matter of public record, without the opportunity of expungement for a possible not guilty verdict without the plea deal.

As for the difference between PBJ -- that is, probation before judgment -- and just plain probation, it's a question of having a guilty verdict in the record or not.

Both sentences have a period of probation, which basically means you're on thin legal ice, in a manner of speaking.

During probation, the court is granting you mercy and not making you go to jail for a crime. However, it places special restrictions on you for the length of the probation -- a year, in this case -- to make sure you don't offend again.

Get into trouble during your probation period, and you can find yourself in a load of legal trouble -- for both the old and the new charges!

All of that said, a plain sentence of probation means that the guilty verdict is still on your criminal record.

Enter stage right: The PBJ!

A sentence of probation before judgment means that the case generally does not "count" as a conviction on your official criminal record. Officially and legally, a PBJ means you will have never been found strictly "guilty" of driving under the influence.

Whether you get a PBJ or probation, realize that for DUI and DWI charges, neither a guilty plea nor a PBJ verdict can be expunged in Maryland.

In both cases under the proposed plea deal, this incident will stay on your permanent criminal record forever.

Should you choose not to take the plea deal, then you run the risk of an unknown sentence after a trial, with both sides presenting evidence.

If the prosecutor is able to prove to the judge you are guilty of the DUI, forget about your public record. You could lose your license and even go to jail.

Either way, you should definitely call up a lawyer before your court date tomorrow (!!). They'd be able to look at the facts available and evaluate if the plea deal is your best legal option -- or if you can reasonably fight against a guilty verdict altogether.

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Our automatic disclaimer: We're lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We're providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual's attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a "real" response!