FAQ on Plea Agreements

What is a PBJ?
  • PBJ stands for Probation Before Judgment.
  • Upon conviction, the judge has the discretion to allow the Defendant to avoid a criminal record. PBJs are most often granted to someone without a prior criminal record.
  • A PBJ has specific conditions that must be fulfilled within certain deadlines. Such conditions may include community service, treatment, seminars such as anger management, alcohol education, writing a 500 word composition on the consequences of the offense, e.g. speeding, driving under the influence, etc.
  • If the probation is violated, or the conditions go unmet, a formal proceeding occurs where a court may revoke PBJ and the result could be a suspended sentence or imprisonment.
  • PBJ is typically considered good for the Defendant because the Defendant avoids the blot of a criminal record and other possible consequences of conviction, but still must often pay a fine.
  • Some employers, especially the Federal Government, treat PBJ same as a conviction, whereas other employers treat it as no criminal record so long as the Defendant had successfully fulfilled the terms of probation.
  • Don’t confuse PBJ and a conviction where you received a suspended sentence and were placed on probation. They are not the same thing.
  • Court records may be expunged three years from the date the PBJ was granted.
What is a stet?
  • A stet is not a dismissal. Rather, the case, at a prosecutor’s discretion, is placed on an inactive docket and indefinitely postponed.
  • Usually within one year, the case ends. But the case can be recalled within one year by either the prosecutor or the Defendant, placed back on the active docket, and tried. After a year, the case may be recalled by the prosecutor with good cause shown by the prosecutor to the court.
  • Stets are often granted with certain conditions for the Defendant, such as performing community service, volunteering for a set number of hours, and paying a fine.
  • For a case to be stetted, the Defendant has to first waive his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.
  • A case may be stetted under Maryland Rule 4-248 of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
  • A stet is usually good for the Defendant because, without any subsequent legal indiscretions, the case will be dropped.
  • Court records may be expunged three years from the date the stet was granted.
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
  • The biggest difference is in the seriousness of the offense. A felony is a more serious offense than a misdemeanor and comes with more serious consequences.
  • In the short term, a felony conviction as opposed to the comparable misdemeanor offense (if there is one) will carry stiffer fines, and for offenses that result in imprisonment, longer and possibly even mandatory sentencing. In addition, a felony conviction can strip individuals certain rights for years to come, such as firearm possession, voting restrictions, and steep penalties for future offenses.
  • Misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felonies, but still carry potentially serious consequences. Misdemeanor convictions can also result in fines and incarceration, in addition to having long-lasting effects, such as for present and future employment prospects.
  • Some employers may not hire because of a felony conviction. Likewise, a misdemeanor theft conviction, for example, could prevent someone from being hired for a position where the individual would be responsible for money or inventory.
What is expungement of records?
  • Expungement of records is the removal of court or police records from the public domain.
  • In Maryland, like in many jurisdictions, courts typically favor that court records and case files remain open to the public. However, the Maryland Rules allow individuals to request that records be expunged both for criminal court proceedings and for police and arrest records.
  • After three years, you can apply to expunge a PBJ or a stet, but several conditions need to be met, including statutory requirements, and there can’t be any pending criminal charges.