Judge and lawyer discussing sentencing for defendant in court

What Is a Suspended Sentence?

Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC Sept. 21, 2023

The possibility of going to prison or jail and serving time behind bars is frightening and depressing. Fortunately, it is becoming more common in Ohio and other states for defendants to be offered a “suspended sentence” in exchange for pleading guilty.  

While it may be tempting to accept a suspended sentence, you need to know what it entails and what the implications of accepting a guilty plea are. The criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC are committed to helping their clients resolve criminal charges in the best way possible. For some, it may mean accepting a guilty plea and negotiating a suspended sentence. For others, it may be pleading not guilty and proceeding to trial to fight the charges.

Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC is based in Columbus, Ohio, but provides advice and representation in Westerville, Dublin, Hillard, Gahanna, and surrounding counties.   

What Is a Suspended Sentence?

During sentencing, a judge decides on the punishment that should be given to the individual who has been convicted of a crime. Judges have a few options to choose from when deciding how the defendant’s time will be served. In most cases, judges choose between the two: 

  • Execute a sentence, which means sending the person convicted of the crime to jail or prison to serve their time 

  • Suspend a sentence, which means giving the defendant a chance to serve all or part of their sentence in the community instead of being incarcerated 

When part of the sentence is suspended, the defendant will still serve some time behind bars, and the rest of the time will be on probation. However, a suspended sentence is not always an option because not every defendant is eligible to have all or part of their sentence suspended.  

When Is a Suspended Sentence Available? Who Is Eligible?

Typically, a suspended sentence is offered to individuals convicted of minor, non-violent offenses. The judge may also consider the defendant’s criminal history and the level of risk posed by the defendant to society when considering whether a suspended sentence is appropriate. A suspended sentence allows the defendant to attend school or keep working and has been shown effective in reducing the rate of re-offending.  

Often, criminal statutes set minimum sentences for serious criminal offenses, not to mention that certain statutes may specifically prohibit suspending the sentence. If you have been accused of committing a criminal offense, you might want to discuss your specific case with an attorney to determine whether a suspended sentence or another alternative to imprisonment is possible in your situation.  

Probation and Suspended Sentencing

Although suspended sentencing and probation often go hand in hand, they are not the same thing. The term suspended sentence refers to a punishment imposed by the judge that gets suspended to keep the defendant on probation instead of sending him/her to jail or prison.  

Probation is an alternative to imprisonment that allows the defendant to serve all or a portion of their sentence in the community instead of going to jail or prison. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, more than two-thirds (67%) of people in Ohio’s criminal justice system are on probation, while the other 15% and 6% are in local jails and state prisons, respectively.  

While on probation, the defendant (called the probationer) is legally required to comply with court-ordered terms and conditions, which vary from one case to another. Examples of these terms and conditions include performing community service, seeking and maintaining gainful employment, attending appointments with a probation officer, abstaining from alcohol and/or drugs, and attending alcohol/drug treatment.  

Can a Suspended Sentence Get Revoked?

Yes, it is not uncommon for courts to revoke sentence suspension if the defendant violates the terms and conditions of probation. After the revocation, the defendant will typically be required to serve the remaining portion of the sentence in jail or prison. When this happens, the defendant’s defense attorney and the prosecutor may negotiate to reach an agreement regarding the duration of the remaining sentence.  

Often, minor or technical violations of probation (e.g., missing an appointment with a probation officer) may result in a relatively short sentence, which may then be followed by reinstating sentence suspension. However, serious or multiple violations will most likely result in a permanent suspension, which means the defendant will have to serve the remainder of the sentence behind bars.  

Explore Your Options With a Skilled Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Ohio, you might want to explore your alternative sentencing options, including a suspended sentence, with a defense attorney. Having an attorney could significantly increase your chances of being granted a suspended sentence. Reach out to Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC to get personalized attention and compassionate guidance you can rely on.