Probation and other Common Sentencing Terms Explained

First-time defendants are often bewildered by how fast things can happen in a courtroom, and they are left wondering if their “suspended” sentence or “probation” is a good thing when brought up on misdemeanor charges such as driving under the influence (DUI) or petty theft. This article briefly explains what some of the more common sentencing terms mean, although if you have a competent criminal defense lawyer representing you, the explanation will be much more in-depth.

“Probation” and “suspended” sentence often go hand in hand. When a judge finds you guilty of a misdemeanor, a jail sentence is imposed. However, there are circumstances where the judge will decide that instead of sending you directly to jail to serve out your sentence, the sentence is “suspended” and you are granted probation terms instead. In effect, the judge is saying that you can avoid going to jail provided you satisfy the conditions of probation such as not getting arrested again for the same offense.

A “suspended” sentence is just that; it’s like an axe hanging over your head. If you commit another crime within the probation period or violate any of the terms of your probation, the axe will fall and you will go to jail to serve your sentence.

Probation is usually granted to people who are first-time offenders. Judges tend to be more lenient towards those who have a clean record prior to the charge because the presumption is that it was a mistake that will not be repeated. It’s not as good as a dismissal, because you still get a misdemeanor conviction tacked on to your record, but it’s better than going to jail. Also, if you complete your probation without trouble, your misdemeanor charge may qualify for expunction. Expunction is basically removing the charge from your record. This is not an easy process, but it can be done with the help of an expunction lawyer.

Obviously, you will want to complete your probation, but if circumstances lead you to violate any of the terms i.e. inability to pay the imposed fine, your lawyer may still be able to argue for reinstatement of your probation by asking for a “dismissed” or “suspended” fine if you do not have the means to pay it. The court may consider to dismiss a fine outright i.e. never collect it or to order other conditions in lieu of the fine i.e. traffic school, thus effectively suspending it until completion of the requisite conditions, at which time the fine is considered no longer collectible.

Juvenile Offenses

More than half of the 73.8 million youths in the US in 2012 (who were all under the age of 18) were said to have either already been exposed to crime and violence or suffered abuses in the home, school and/or community. About 35 million have also experienced and sustained injuries from physical assault.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) revealed that many of these youths have also been charged with criminal acts, like drinking, driving while intoxicated, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, gambling, vagrancy, vandalism, arson, carrying or possession of a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, robbery, rape and other sex crimes, murder, and so forth.

Juvenile crimes are reported to hit the highest point between 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., which is after school hours. About 1.5 million arrests were actually made in 2011 of persons under the age of 18.

Males are the ones more likely to commit crimes, though the number of females being caught has also been increasing steadily.

According to authorities the rise in the number of arrests is simply due to the more zealous and serious efforts of police officers in enforcing the law and not necessarily due to an increase in the number of juvenile offenders. This more concerted effort is aimed at preventing those who are caught from becoming repeat offenders, most of whom usually ending up as regular criminals. Furthermore, those within the age bracket, whether guilty of a crime or not, are made to understand that conviction does not only mean fines and citations – they are also educated on how even one arrest record can affect and damage their future professional lives.

Thus, despite being poor, being affected by problems in the home or school, peer pressure, gang membership, lack of supervision from parents, or exposure to a hostile environment during childhood, committing a crime will always mean punishment (which may include rehabilitation or imprisonment), as well as corrective measures.

The criminal lawyers in Fort Walton, FL, whose website can be found at www.flahertydefensefirm.com, offers vital information on juvenile offenses. The website discusses the different types of offenses a juvenile may be charged with and the legal options available to protect his/her future from possible ruin.

Criminal Defense – Domestic Violence

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was made into law by the US Congress in 1994. It gave the federal government the power to fight domestic violence, a problem of pandemic proportions in the US and around the world.

Based on the definition of the U. S. Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), domestic violence is a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”. This abusive behavior can befall “anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender”; it also takes different forms, including psychological, economic, emotional, verbal, sexual, and (the most common) physical abuse. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_violence_in_the_United_States)

Battering and abuses tend to worsen overtime, making the experience more traumatic and the effects, much longer lasting. Worst, even children suffer, by being directly harmed too and developing the attitude of tolerating violence or becoming violent as they become adults.

The legal remedies offered by the state and the federal government to battered individuals, however, have provided them hope, making them come to the open and break their silence. With the passing of the laws and making domestic violence (DV) a civil and/or criminal offense, many sexual assaults, stalking, dating violence, and domestic abuses have been prevented and perpetrators charged and convicted. Besides these, there have also been a 51% increase in domestic violence reports and 49.8% reduction in abuses and violent acts by intimate partners.

Criminal prosecution of those charged fall under assault and battery laws, menacing, harassment, or false imprisonment (a tort and a common-law felony due to the act of restraining a person in a restricted area without justification or consent).

Due to the severity of a domestic violence accusation, whether it is true or baseless, it will be wise for the accused to, first and foremost, obey any court order, including refraining from making any contacts with his/her accuser either directly or indirectly (through emails, texts, phone calls or a third party, such as a friend, relative or work colleague – violating this order can result to imprisonment and more difficulty in defending against the accusation). It is, therefore, safest for the accused to keep away from the accuser and to seek a competent lawyer immediately. An Austin criminal lawyer is one specific legal counsel who can help the accused fully understand his/her best options, as well as the nature of the litigation process. The litigation process can be long and complex, so having someone who knows what they’re doing on your side when you’re accused of a crime can be incredibly beneficial.

Option to act may either involve going to trial to fight the allegations (which can be costly, time consuming and which could result to an unmitigated sentence) or entering a no contest/guilty plea (which can mean more moderate punishments compared to the punishments after a conviction). While the accused is faced with not so favorable options, a criminal defense lawyer will be able to clarify everything and help him or her come up with the most favorable result.

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