If you have been convicted of a criminal offence, you face a number of possible penalties in NSW.
Penalties range from a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order‘ (no conviction), to community service, to long-term imprisonment, depending on the nature of the offence, and your personal circumstances and criminal history.
If you have been convicted of an offence and sentenced to a period of imprisonment of two years or less, your criminal lawyer can ask for a suspended sentence.
This means that you won’t go to prison, but you will be required to abide by certain conditions of a ‘section 12 good behaviour bond’.
As long as you stick to the terms of your good behaviour bond, you will not have to go to prison.
Breach the terms, however, and you will be required to serve out your entire sentence in prison.
So, for example, if you are given a 6 month ‘suspended sentence’ and commit a further criminal offence after 5 months, you will have to serve an entire 6 months in prison even though the suspended sentence is almost finished.
What are the advantages of getting a suspended sentence?
The main advantage to receiving a suspended sentence over full time imprisonment is that it means you will not have to go to jail.
You will be able to continue residing at your normal address with your family, and work, as long as you abide by any conditions set out by the court.
If you have children to look after, or a spouse to support, this can help prevent a lot of the difficulties that would be caused by you spending an extended amount of time in prison.
How can I get a suspended sentence?
Getting a suspended sentence over one of the other penalties in NSW depends partly on the length of prison term you are sentenced to.
If it is two years or less, the court may decide to give you a suspended sentence on the condition that you enter into a good behaviour bond, which will generally be for the duration of the prison sentence.
Some things that will be taken into consideration by the magistrate or judge when deciding whether to give a suspended sentence include the likelihood of you re-offending if you are released, the safety of the community, and how a prison sentence is likely to impact your family, particularly if you have dependants.
Your previous criminal history will be taken into consideration, as well as your character and what your perceived chances of rehabilitation are.
Your defence lawyer will be able to advise you as to how likely it is that you will receive a suspended sentence, and help you prepare your defence, including obtaining character references.
What happens if I breach my good behaviour bond?
If you breach the terms of your good behaviour bond by committing an offence, by failing to remain in contact with your parole officer, or failing to update your address details, you will be required to return to court.
The court will usually revoke a good behaviour bond unless you have a very good reason for breaching the terms, and will then be required to serve the whole sentence in custody.
If you have been sentenced to a suspended sentence, it is important that you understand the terms of your sentence and make sure you take steps to avoid breaching it.
If you are uncertain as to anything regarding your suspended sentence, or any other penalties in NSW, it is a good idea to seek legal advice from a expert criminal lawyer.