Not every conviction results in a prison sentence. Maryland recognizes that communities and defendants are both better served by focusing on treatment instead of imprisonment. Some of the factors that may indicate an alternative is viable include the type of offense that was committed, whether you have a prior record, and whether Maryland has established programs to help rehabilitate someone who was convicted of a crime. Whether there is a sentencing alternative for you ultimately depends on the judge assigned to your criminal case.
The probation alternative to incarceration
Instead of sentencing a defendant to jail or prison, a judge can sentence a person convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony to probation. There are eligibility requirements and conditions. Some crimes require mandatory prison sentences. Generally, anyone who commits a violent crime or who uses a weapon in the commission of a crime will not be eligible for probation. If you have a criminal record, you may also be ineligible for probation.
If a judge grants probation, some of these conditions may apply:
- You could be required to meet with a probation officer on a regular basis.
- You could be required to attend classes or training that the judge orders such as alcohol or drug abuse classes.
- You could be required ordered to pay restitution for any damages to the victim.
- You may be required to obey all laws.
- You could be required to complete a certain number of hours of community service.
If you fail to comply with the terms of probation, your probation could be revoked and you could be ordered to serve the rest of your sentence in prison.
A deferred adjudication program
In many ways, a deferred adjudication program (also called probation before judgment, or PBJ) is similar to probation, in that there are eligibility requirements and conditions which you must meet. However, in a deferred adjudication program, the judge will either order:
- That the case be suspended while you complete the terms of the program. If you complete the terms of the program, the case is dropped and you will not have a criminal record; or,
- That you plead guilty with the understanding that if you complete the terms of the program, your criminal defense lawyer can ask that the charges be dismissed or expunged at a later time so that you will not have a criminal record.
Maryland judges generally have broad discretion to create alternative programs when they think a defendant is capable of rehabilitation. One benefit of PBJ for drunk driving charges is that the DUI/DWI charge will not be a conviction on your driving record, which means in Maryland you will receive no points on your MVA record and should keep your license.
The drug court alternative
Maryland has a few different drug treatment courts (DTC) for adult and juvenile offenders. The courts focus on rehabilitation when crimes are due to addiction. The courts use a four-phase program that lasts for 15-18 months. The program is used for first-time defendants and for some people who have violated their probation.
Defendants must sign a participation contract before they can be part of the drug court program. The program uses a team of people including the state’s attorney’s office, the defendant’s lawyer, the county department of corrections, the parole and probation department, and local law enforcement. These people work together to craft and monitor a program for the adult participant – so they can become free of the drug addiction dependency.
Defendants who are permitted to participate in the program:
- Are subject to random drug tests
- Must participate in substance abuse treatment and counseling
- Must make frequent appearances in court so the court can monitor the defendant’s compliance with the program and the defendant’s progress
There are incentives for good behavior and sanctions for poor behavior. Sanctions can include a curfew, house arrest, community service, and even termination from the program. Your criminal defense lawyer can explain the eligibility requirements for a drug court treatment program.
Drug courts for veterans
Special veterans courts have recently been created (your lawyer can explain if your county has a veterans drug court) to help former members of the US armed forces who have committed crimes due to substance abuse or mental illness. Each court has its unique requirements, though the aims are similar to those for adult courts. There’s an added focus on the unique problems that former veterans have in adjusting to civilian life.
Other drug offense alternatives
A few other sentencing alternatives include:
- Sober living houses. Defendants who are sentenced to a non-drug court program may be ordered to live in a sober living house where they must attend substance abuse programs.
- Electronic monitoring. You can stay at home, work, or go to school – but you must wear an electronic monitoring device so law enforcement (or your probation officer) knows where you are.
- Work release. You spend your nights in jail, but during the day, you can leave prison to work at your job so you can earn an income.
At Carey Law Office, we work aggressively for our clients to obtain dismissals and acquittals of all criminal charges. There are often times though when it is clear that the prosecution has a strong case and our clients will be better served by exploring alternatives to incarceration. For many defendants, a treatment program can set them on the right path. For some defendants, just the arrest is enough to set them straight which is why a judge may consider alternative sentencing options.
Criminal defense lawyer Joseph Carey understands the full range of defenses and options when you are arrested for a crime. We’ll advise you if you are eligible for any sentencing alternatives and what the conditions of any program are. If you’ve been arrested, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. To schedule a consultation at our Bowie or Crofton office, call us at 301-464-2500 or use our contact form to make an appointment.
My name is Joe Carey, and I am the founder and principal attorney of the Carey Law Office. I have lived in Maryland my entire life. I grew up in a small town in Prince George’s County and, with the help of my partner in life, Nancy, I raised my family here: three exceptional children (a son and two daughters), and two goofy, spoiled black Labrador Retrievers. Learn More