Criminal Defense Attorney Tom Petersen Explains “What is a Suspended Sentence?”
If you were recently arrested for the first time, you are probably dealing with a wide range of heightened emotions that may include denial, fear, anger, and confusion.
On top of your heightened emotions, you are now trying to navigate a legal system with which you are unfamiliar.
At some point the prosecuting attorney will probably offer you a plea agreement that requires you to plead guilty in return for a lighter, pre-determined sentence.
Understanding the terms of that sentence will be crucial to making a well-informed decision about whether or not to accept the plea agreement.
You should never accept a plea agreement without first consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney. As the old adage goes though, knowledge is power.
With that in mind, an Omaha criminal defense attorney explains what a suspended sentence is and how your sentence will be impacted if it is suspended.
What Does Suspended Sentence Mean?
There are two roads that lead a defendant to a criminal conviction. The first is to take a criminal case to trial and let a judge or jury decide the issue of guilt. If the judge or jury comes back with a verdict of “guilty” at the end of a trial, the next phase is sentencing. For minor offenses, a judge may go straight to sentencing; however, for more serious crimes a judge will typically set the matter for sentencing and order a pre-sentence investigation in the meantime.
The second route to a conviction is to enter into a guilty plea agreement with the State of Nebraska (through the State’s representative, the prosecuting attorney). If you do choose to accept a guilty plea agreement, your defense attorney will negotiate the terms of that agreement to garner the most favorable terms possible for you. One major benefit of accepting a plea agreement is usually the fact that you will know what your sentence will be ahead of time.
How Does A Suspended Sentence Work?
Anyone who has watched a police drama on television or the big screen knows that when the judge sentences a defendant to a period of incarceration that means the defendant is going to jail or prison – or does it? In real life, it does not always mean that. In fact, it is fairly common for a judge to suspend a portion, or even an entire, sentence. When the judge suspends the sentence it means that the defendant is not required to serve that portion of the sentence at this time.
The jail or prison time, however, remains hanging over the defendant’s head, typically throughout a period of probation. For example, imagine you were convicted of driving under the influence and sentenced to 365 days in jail with 364 days suspended and a year on probation. You probably already spent a night in jail when you were arrested so that means your entire sentence is suspended.
Until you successfully complete your year of probation, however, that 364 days of jail time remains an option in the event you violate your probation because the sentencing court retains jurisdiction over you. For instance, if you fail a couple of drug tests and the judge finds that you violated the terms of your probation at a hearing, your probation could be revoked and you could be forced to actually serve a portion, or all, of the 364 days in jail that were suspended.
What Does It Mean to Be “Non-Suspendible?”
Some criminal offenses, and some defendants, are non-suspendible. If an offense is non-suspendible it means that anyone convicted of that offense must actually serve any jail or prison time ordered by the court.
If a defendant is non-suspendible, it means that if someone else was convicted of the offense they could receive a suspended sentence, but a non-suspendible defendant is not eligible to have his/her sentence suspended.
Each state decides what offenses are non-suspendible and what factors make a defendant non-suspendible which is one reason why it is crucial to discuss your specific circumstances with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Contact an Omaha Criminal Defense Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Nebraska, consult with an experienced Omaha criminal attorney as soon as possible. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.
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