One Maryland District Court's Take On Probation Before Judgement

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I recently had to make a winter trip to Ocean City, Maryland to represent a client for drunk driving, along with a laundry list of other charges in the Worcester County District Court. My client was a Hispanic man who had a prior DWI conviction less than five years ago. Whenever there is a prior drunk driving conviction the Court tends to give a more severe sentence. The State's Attorney agreed to drop all of the other charges, including DUI, and pursue only the lesser charge of DWI. With the aid of a Spanish interpreter I advised my client of the State's offer and how a guilty plea would affect his rights. He agreed to the terms of the plea agreement and we walked into the courtroom together.

I was informed by one of the Court employees that Judge Mumford, who was on the bench, "always" gave jail time to subsequent offenders and that I should expect 10-20 days. Pretty severe, but the Court believes drunk driving puts people's lives at risk and my client should be held accountable for his actions. I watched a few other drunk driving cases before my client's case was called. The first case was a first time drunk driver who was involved in an accident in which no one was hurt. He was given a probation before judgement along with mandatory alcohol treatment, attendance of a MADD victim impact panel, and one year supervised probation along with a hefty fine. I was not surprised, after all in most cases a first time offender will be given the benefit of probation before judgement. The next case involved a woman who had a prior DUI conviction. Her current charge involved an accident and she had a blood alcohol level almost three times the legal limit. She plead guilty to DUI and was sentenced to ten days in jail along with a myriad of other conditions.

During her trial I noticed a quick exchange between Defense Counsel and the Judge where counsel noted she was not given a PBJ for her first offense and that made things "better". Judge Mumford agreed with counsel. My client, who was given a PBJ for his prior DWI, was sentenced to twenty days in jail. I was surprised by this sentence because my client did not cause an accident, had a much lower blood alcohol content and was convicted of a lesser charge for both the prior and subsequent offense. Did my client receive more jail time because he was already given the benefit of a PBJ? Usually a person is denied a PBJ for a DUI because their offense involved flagrant violations such as high blood alcohol content or causing an injury to another driver. The logic seems unfair and counter intuitive if it is true that my client received a harsher sentence because probation before judgement was appropriate in his prior conviction and the other defendant received a lighter sentence because probation before judgment was not appropriate in her prior conviction. When I think about the other possible reasons for the Judge's decision with regard to sentencing I hope that, as unfair as it may be, the lack or presence of a PBJ is the only explanation.

If you, a family member, or someone you know has been charged with a traffic or criminal offense. It is imperative that you obtain an Maryland criminal attorney that is familiar with the law and that will fight to get the best possible outcome. Contact the lawyers at Portner & Shure.

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