When is a PBJ not a PBJ in Maryland traffic court?

There are certain circumstances where getting a probation before judgment will not help a motorist that much in Maryland’s traffic court.

When the charge is an alcohol charge, insurance carriers can see any administrative alcohol license suspension even if the ultimate jailable offenses of driving while impaired/driving under the influence do not result in convictions or even in guilty findings.

When motorists have a commercial driver’s license, certain violations get reported to the federal government as “major infractions” even if a Maryland court grants probation before judgment.  Most notably among them is a finding of a specific speed more than 15 miles an hour over the speed limit while driving a commercial vehicle.  In such cases, the federal government will ignore Maryland PBJ (as will other states that coordinate with the federal government on commercial driver’s licenses.)  It can sometimes be more important for some motorists to avoid 15 over and a PBJ, than a conviction outright at 14 miles an hour, as a second “major infraction” can suspend a motorist’s CDL status and livelihood EVEN IF the judge generously exercises discretion to grant probation before judgment.

When there’s an accident, the entry of a PBJ will not affect the attitude of the carriers and auto tort bar towards civil liability; in such cases, a chargeable accident will have much of the same effect as a moving violation conviction, possibly much more depending on the specifics.

Finally, the granting of a PBJ may not remove immigration fall-out for non-citizens charged with major offenses.  An “aggravated felony” can include misdemeanors for which the maximum punishment equals or exceeds two years in jail.  Accordingly, some of the more severe motor vehicle charges can have immigration consequences for non-citizens even if a judge grants PBJ.  The interface of immigration law and criminal law is a liability-prone area for criminal practice and attorneys need to be extremely detail oriented whenever representing a non-citizen in criminal court.

Anyone facing any of these situations, ESPECIALLY those involving a theoretical possibility of jail but also civil, CDL consequences or any immigration consequences of any sort, should retain counsel.  Part of the reason is that an unrepresented person might be persuaded by a prosecutor offering a bad deal in the form of “not opposing probation” when the fight to a not guilty on all or at least some of the charges is necessary.  It’s always a good idea to take an attorney to court, but it’s more important when the consequences are complex, especially more complex that even the sentencing judge may realize.

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