If you are the defendant in a criminal prosecution, the prosecuting attorney will probably offer you a plea agreement at some point. That agreement will call for you to plead guilty in return for a lighter, predetermined sentence. If you are contemplating accepting that agreement, you need a clear understanding of the terms of the plea agreement, especially if the agreement includes a suspended sentence. A Murfreesboro criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what you need to know about a suspended sentence.
Understanding How a Plea Agreement Works
As the defendant, you could end up with guilty conviction at the end of a trial or as part of a plea agreement. If you are convicted at trial, the next phase is sentencing. For minor offenses, a judge may go straight to sentencing at the end of the trial. If you are convicted of a more serious crime, however, your case may be set for a sentencing hearing and a pre-sentence investigation ordered.
You could also enter into a guilty plea agreement with the State of Tennessee. If you do choose to accept a guilty plea agreement, your criminal lawyer will negotiate the terms of that agreement to get you the most favorable terms possible. Most of the time a primary benefit of accepting a guilty plea agreement is that it will include a pre-determined sentence, thereby removing the stress of not knowing your sentence and usually ensuring a less than maximum sentence.
What Is A Suspended Sentence?
Particularly for less serious offenses, a judge will often suspend a portion, or even an entire, sentence. Whether because you are found guilty at trial or you decide to accept a plea agreement, you need to understand what a “suspended sentence” means.
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 your head if you received a suspended sentence. Specifically, a suspended sentence will usually remain a threat during a period of probation. For example, imagine you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense and sentenced to 365 days in jail with 364 days suspended. You are also sentenced to a year on probation. Given that you likely spent a night in jail when you were originally arrested your entire remaining sentence will be suspended. That may sound great because it means you do not have to go back to jail; however, until you successfully complete your year of probation that 364 days of jail time remains a potential punishment. If you violate your probation the judge could revoke your probation and sentence you to serve some, or all, of your suspended sentence.
Can All Sentences Be Suspended?
It is equally important to know that some criminal offenses, and some defendants, are non-suspendable. If an offense is non-suspendable it means the court cannot suspend the sentence. Therefore, if you are convicted of that offense, you must serve any jail or prison time ordered by the court. If you are non-suspendable, it means that you are not eligible to have your sentence suspended for any of a variety of reasons. Each state decides what offenses are non-suspendable and what factors make a defendant non-suspendable which is one reason why it is crucial to discuss your specific circumstances with an experienced criminal lawyer before deciding to take a case to trial or before deciding to accept a guilty plea agreement.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Lawyer
If you have additional questions about what it means to be sentenced to a suspended sentence in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.