What is a suspended jail sentence?
A suspended jail sentence is a jail or prison sentence that is suspended on a condition precedent. The traditional condition precedent is that you successfully complete probation and all the conditions of probation. In other words, stay out of trouble, don’t pick up any new offenses, pay your court costs, pay your supervision costs, and report to your probation officer. If you have community service hours do those. If you have a question about what you’re supposed to do give your lawyer a call or call your probation officer.
If you do all of that and you complete probation, your supervision will terminate and you will never end up doing a day in jail or prison on the suspended sentence. However, if you violate probation, you are brought back to jail for a violation of probation. The Judge will traditionally go along with what the Suspended Sentence is, unless your lawyer can provide a legal reason or factual reason (mitigation) for the judge not to impose that penalty.
What are the benefits
The Benefits of a Suspended Sentence for a Defendant are quite specific in that a Suspended Jail Sentence is not a mandatory jail sentence. The suspended jail sentence merely sets the ceiling to which a VOP judge or State Attorney can sentence the Defendant to. The Judge and the State are allowed to go below that sentence. See Cowart v. State, 860 So.2d 1041 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003)(finding that a suspended sentence is merely the cap, not the floor).
In Cowart, the 5th District Court of Appeal stated that “the [circuit] court misunderstood its options. The Court did not have only one recourse, but was authorized to revoke, modify, or continue the probation or community control or place the probation into a community control program. Furthermore, on electing to revoke probation and impose a sentence, a court is authorized to impose a sentence less than the original sentence.”
In other words, Cowart stands for the proposition that a suspended jail sentence (attached to a probation term) is essentially the equivalent of a regular probation sentence with a capped penalty below the statutory maximum jail sentence (assuming the suspended sentence was for a number of years or months below the maximum sentence). For example, if the Defendant violates Burglary probation with a 1-year jail sentence suspended attached, the most the Defendant will have to do if he violates is 1 year in jail, even though Burglary is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.