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How do suspended sentences work?

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | Criminal Defense

If you have ever heard a report about a criminal trial on the news, you may have heard the phrase “a suspended sentence.”

It means that the person the judge sentenced will never actually serve that sentence, provided they stay on the right side of the law from now on. While not everyone or every crime is eligible for a suspended sentence, it is something you should learn about if facing criminal charges.

Not everyone approves of suspended sentences

Some people (typically including the team prosecuting the case) feel handing out a suspended sentence is disrespectful to the victim of the crime. They argue that the perpetrator has gotten away without being punished.

While that is true to an extent, a criminal record and the ignominy of a public trial are certainly not pleasant and can have a lot of negative consequences for a person and their family – financial, mental and emotional.

It’s also clear that sending people to prison for minor offenses can sometimes lead to them committing worse offenses when released due to the influences they were exposed to inside.

By contrast, the threat of a suspended prison sentence hanging over their head may be enough to keep someone on the straight and narrow going forward.

You must stay on your best behavior to avoid serving your sentence 

The judge will give you a list of conditions you must comply with to avoid having to serve the sentence. Even a minor breach, such as forgetting to meet with your probation officer or committing a traffic offense, could see them activate the sentence.

While a suspended sentence won’t prevent you from getting a criminal record, it is a far better option than serving time in prison. Learning more is wise if you have already exhausted all your defense options.