People charged with DUIs, and common misdemeanors often have great difficulty understanding what the court is saying when they are being sentenced to a fine or informal probation in a criminal case. Here, we try to simplify it for you in plain English:
When a person (defendant) is sentenced on a misdemeanor criminal case, the court often offers the defendant “probation” instead of a straight jail sentence.
|Generally, this means the court imposes a jail sentence, but then “suspends” the jail sentence. The court then imposes “probation” “terms” in place of the suspended jail sentence. |
If you complete the terms of your probation, and stay out of trouble throughout the probation period, the jail sentence remains “suspended”, or paused. It is never carried out. Once the probation term is over, the suspended sentence disappears. Then, at some point after probation is completed, the case may qualify for “expungement” or removal from your criminal record.
However, everything changes if any of the probation terms are violated.
When a person fails to complete the terms of probation, such as not finishing a court ordered program, or fails to pay a fine on time, the court generally does 2 things:
- issues an arrest warrant, and
- revokes probation.
If probation is revoked, the “suspended” jail sentence then becomes the real sentence, unless someone (like a criminal defense attorney) can talk the judge into reinstating probation somehow.
A probation violation can arise from something as simple as failing to keep the court updated of a current address. Because of this, if you are on probation, it is extremely important to know and understand all of the terms of your probation.
What is a “suspended fine”?
Sometimes a criminal court judge will sentence a person charged with a traffic or criminal offense to a fine, but will then “suspend” the fine, or a portion of it. In general, this means that if you comply with the court’s orders (usually regarding traffic school, etc.), you will not have to pay the “suspended” fine. However, if you fail to comply the “suspended fine” can become collectible.
Although a “dismissed” fine and a “suspended fine” are the same in the fact that a person does not have to pay either, a dismissed fine is much better, because it is gone forever and cannot become collectible if there is a screw up.
Questions? Leave a comment. We try to respond to them all.