Sometimes, one of the best outcomes of a criminal case may be for the judge to suspend a sentence. But what exactly does that mean for the defendant?
Typically, sentences are only suspended for relatively minor crimes, when a defendant doesn’t have a prior criminal record and/or when an option besides jail or prison may be better for the defendant and the community.
State laws vary regarding what crimes are ineligible for suspended sentences. Sentences typically can’t be suspended for crimes that have mandatory sentences. In Colorado, for example, felony child abuse and felony sexual assault offenses are among those for which a sentence can’t be suspended.
When can a sentence be suspended?
A judge may suspend a sentence without even imposing one, although they reserve the right to impose it later if they believe it’s warranted. This if often a conditional suspension. The conditions may be things like getting substance abuse treatment or avoiding further arrests.
A judge may also impose a sentence but then suspend it. For example, a person may be sentenced to serve a year in prison but then have their sentence suspended by the judge. This means they don’t have to serve any time. A judge still has the right to reinstate the sentence they declined to execute later on.
A suspended sentence and your criminal record
It’s crucial to understand that if a judge suspends your sentence, that doesn’t erase the conviction from your criminal record. That’s why it’s important to have experienced legal guidance as you go through the judicial system from the very start in order to best protect your future interests.