What is the suspended imposition of a sentence?

If someone is arrested for a crime, they immediately become a defendant and can request bail. If granted bail, the bond will be posted by a bail bondsman, who then holds a vested interest in the defendant showing up in court when the judge schedules them to do so. While out on bail, the defendant will spend time with their lawyer planning a defense. As part of the process, the defendant and their attorney might decide to enter a guilty plea or have the attorney work out a plea deal with the prosecutor. At that point, the assigned judge would move to sentence the defendant. Under some circumstances, the judge might decide to issue a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS). In all likelihood, this would be something all relevant parties (defendant, defendant’s lawyer, the prosecutor, and judge) agreed upon prior to the judge issuing the proclamation. For people who find themselves in this situation, it would seem prudent to offer them information about what exactly the term “suspended imposition of sentence” means and how it works.

What is a Suspended Imposition of Sentence?

Keeping in mind things may vary slightly from one state to the next and possibly at the federal level, an SIS is typically defined as a conviction after which the judge decides not to immediately render a sentence. Instead, the judge will take into account the defendant and case’s circumstances and come to the conclusion the defendant is deserving of some form of consideration. In effect, the judge is not sentencing the defendant, choosing to defer sentencing to a later date pending the outcome of a probationary period.

How an SIS Works

Once a defendant enters a plea of guilty or agrees upon a plea agreement, they’ll find themselves at the mercy of the judge. A fair and impartial judge will usually take all aspects of the case into consideration, including any recommendations the prosecutor’s office wishes to offer. If the crime results in a felony conviction, the defendant will have to face the appropriate felony conviction consequences. That usually includes jail time, and some form of subsequent probation/parole. Furthermore, if the criminal conviction involves a serious crime like armed robbery or violent assault, the sentence the judge must prescribe is usually dictated by the relevant state’s statutory sentencing guidelines. If anything, the judge might have some discretion to up the sentence due to extenuating circumstances. If the case involves a misdemeanor or low-level felony conviction, the need for jail time might not be immediately deemed appropriate. As an alternative, the judge could elect to place the defendant on probation (supervised or unsupervised) to offer the defendant an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of other considerations. Should the defendant successfully abide by all the terms of their probation/parole, the judge would then move to have the case closed.

For the defendant’s benefit, the conviction would not appear on their public record. However, law enforcement and the court system would still keep the conviction on file in case the defendant would run into other cases in the future that could result in a criminal conviction. On the other side of the coin, it’s noteworthy that during the defendant’s probation period, any violation of the terms of probation would likely result in the judge revoking the SIS. At that time, the judge would render the sentence based on the aforementioned sentencing guidelines. Subsequently, the defendant would have to endure the felony conviction consequences, including the conviction going on the defendant’s public record. Read about Justice Reforms

How to Request a Suspended Imposition

If the defendant and their attorney(s) feel there’s a chance the judge might be swayed to go the SIS route, there is a way how to request a suspended imposition. This would usually be done in writing as part of a plea deal with the prosecutor’s office. It would then only require a judge’s signature for immediate implementation.

The Differences Between an SIS and a Suspended Execution of Sentence

It should be clear that an SIS is an action that takes place before the judge actually hands down any kind of formal sentence. Conversely, suspended execution of a sentence is an action the judge would take after formally assigning a sentence. After doing so, the judge would suspend the sentence, giving the defendant an opportunity to avoid jail time or the full brunt of the criminal conviction with good behavior. 

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