What is a suspended sentence in criminal cases and what is its eligibility criteria?

How many years of jail sentence will you get after a criminal conviction? The question may arise when you have criminal charges. But defendants can avoid going to jail by receiving probation or a suspended sentence.

A suspended sentence is a situation where a judge convicts a defendant with jail time but delays the implementation of the conviction. Instead, the defendant is sent to serve probation. If he serves the probation with all the required terms, the judge may dismiss the case as well. But it all depends on the judge’s discretion and the jurisdiction you live in. What is a suspended sentence and who is eligible for a suspended sentence? Keep reading to know more.

What is a suspended sentence in legal terms?

A suspended sentence essentially means that jail or prison time is stopped. The convict will not be sent to jail right away but termed to serve probation depending on the type of crime and the criminal history along with the state rules where he lives.

When there’s a sentence hanging over the defendant’s head, he must follow the probation instructions or he eventually will end up in jail.

Who is eligible for receiving a suspended sentence?

As said, it would be based on the state requirements, but the court may grant a suspended sentence to anyone with a minor charge or non-violent offenses where there was less or no pose of danger to the community from the defendant.

Many times, low-level defenders and first-time offenders become eligible for the suspended sentence or some other less strict convictions and restitution. A suspended sentence also helps the defendant to continue his employment and attend school meetings. Also, it reduces the chance of recidivism. In some states, convict of a suspended sentence does not refer to the criminal categories of offenses.

A minimum mandatory sentence for serious or violent crimes in the state criminal statutes prevents the sentences from being suspended. There are state statutes that give judges more discretion about the sentencing.

The courts would also look at some different types of sentence structures when there’s a criminal offense in question. These types include fines, conditional charge, and unconditional charge, probation, and a combination of one or two types. And then again, the court would stop the sentence until the next condition occurs. Look what do they mean;

Imprisonments and Fines

It is at the court’s discretion to impose a fine or a jail sentence. If the sentence is straight without any conditions, the defendant will be incarcerated immediately.

Unconditional Discharge

An unconditional discharge is much like a warning. It does not entail a jail, probation period, fine, or any other legal obligation on the defendant. In other words, it is the end of a criminal sentence and the offender will be released with no further restrictions and penalties. The defendant will have a charge in his criminal history if he is found guilty for the criminal act, however, will not serve probation or jail time.

Unconditional discharge is not used commonly but opted in exceptional circumstances where a wider plea agreement is involved against the convictions imposed due to other offenses.

Probation and a suspended sentence

The defendants having a suspended sentence have to adhere to the terms of probation to avoid the risk of being sent back to prison. For how long you will be on probation will depend on the limit of probation defined by the state laws, the seriousness of the crime, and of course the judge. A general time frame defined for probation is between one and five years. Probation conditions include:

  • Community service
  • Reporting probation officer
  • Random drug tests monitoring
  • Fines and compensations
  • Curfew
  • The requirement to retain and seek employment
  • Abusive sentence counseling
  • Payment of the court fees, restitution, fines, or probation fees
  • Avoiding involvement in further criminal charges

If the probation ends without violating the terms of probation, the suspended sentence will be discharged. But it will not end the criminal record in the defendant’s behavior history as he will avoid jail time. Otherwise, additional sentences would be imposed.

Split sentences

A split sentence is a sentence that includes jail time as well as probation time. For instance, in a split sentence, there is jail time after two or three years of probation. After the probation, if the defendant complies with the terms of the sentence, he may be discharged, otherwise, the potential sentence will be hanging over the head of the defendant.

Special Parole and Parole

Parole, however, is not a part of a suspended sentence but it is a monitoring period of a defendant when he is released from prison early. It is administered by the Dept. of Correction and Board of Parole. The board determines whether the defendant of more than two years in prison is eligible to get parole or special parole. Special parole is applied as a part of sentencing with special monitoring instructions by DOC.

Discuss the Suspended Sentence with a defense attorney

The criminal laws of the suspended sentences vary across states and jurisdictions. A skillful criminal defense attorney will help you understand what is a suspended sentence and how you can avoid jail time. If you think that your offense is less violent and you don’t have a criminal history, it is best recommended to talk to your defense attorney about a suspended sentence and explore your options.

Get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney so you can better understand your rights.

Recent Posts