What does a suspended sentence mean?

Many convicts are glad when they are given a suspended sentence. It means that they do not have to serve their sentence in a penitentiary, but can live in freedom. But a suspended sentence is not an acquittal. It is rather an ” outpatient ” execution.

suspended sentence

1. Who gets a suspended sentence?

Suspension of the custodial sentence on probation is only possible for custodial sentences of up to two years. If a higher prison sentence is pronounced by the court, probation is not possible. Approximately three quarters of all prison sentences not exceeding two years are suspended on probation.

The judge decides at his discretion whether a custodial sentence can be suspended on probation. The aim of agreements in criminal proceedings is often to reach an agreement with the court and the public prosecutor’s office on a suspended sentence prior to the trial.

The judge prepares a social prognosis which deals with the future development of the offender. The judge can only suspend a sentence on probation if it is likely that the offender will not commit any more crimes in the future without the influence of the penal system. In his prognosis, the judge primarily takes into account the personality of the offender, his previous life (in particular previous convictions), the circumstances of the offence and the living conditions of the offender.

It is particularly favourable for the perpetrator if he lives in solid circumstances, i.e. has a stable home and work and stable family connections. It always depends on the overall appreciation of all circumstances. It may also be important whether the offender has made good the damage caused by the offence.

A probation can also be considered, for example, if the offender has not been previously convicted and the judge assumes that it is a one-off derailment of the offender.

A probation is however very rare, if a perpetrator already has offended several times against probation conditions or the new act has been committed even still during a current probation.

It belongs to the tasks of the criminal defense lawyers to create facts at an early stage which favour a positive social prognosis. This can be, for example, a so-called victim-offender mediation, i.e. an agreement with the injured party of a crime who receives compensation for the consequences suffered. In criminal tax proceedings, the settlement of any tax debts plays a decisive role in the sentencing – and thus, in borderline cases, also in probation – of the offender.

2. What does the probation period mean?

The court determines a certain probation period in the judgement. The probation period has nothing to do with the duration of the prison sentence. This means, for example, that a probationary period of two years or more can be fixed for a suspended sentence of one year. During the probation period, it is checked whether the convicted person deserves to be suspended. During this period, the offender shall be exempt from punishment and comply with conditions and instructions. The probation period shall be at least two years and no longer than five years. It may be subsequently extended by the court.

3. What conditions can be imposed for the duration of the probation period?

Usually, “noticeable” consequences are imposed during a probation (in addition to registration requirements). These are usually money requirements. In individual cases, for example, working conditions may also be imposed or a special obligation to make good any damage may be imposed.

A possible condition during the probation period may be the payment of a monetary sum. The instruction can be used to make good the damage (for example, compensation for damages or damages for pain and suffering) or can be paid in favour of charitable institutions or the state treasury. A condition can be also the contribution of non-profit work (for example in the old person home, hospital, animal shelter as well as for environmental protection).

4. What instructions can be imposed for the duration of the probationary period?

The law provides a large number of possible instructions for the duration of the probationary period.

The convicted person may be subject to a reporting obligation, i.e. he must report to the court or another authority at certain times.

The court may issue orders concerning residence, training, work or leisure or the organisation of economic conditions. It is often ordered that the person sentenced on no income should make an effort to take up work or an apprenticeship.

The sentenced person may also be prohibited from having contact with certain persons or groups of persons if they have a bad influence on him. The court may also order that the perpetrator does not possess certain objects, does not carry them with him and does not have them kept for him by another person. This applies in particular to objects such as weapons, weapon-like objects, thieving tools or objects used for drug use.

The court may also order the sentenced person to fulfil his maintenance obligations.

5. Who gets a probation officer?

A probation officer can be assigned to the convicted person for the probation period. This is particularly appropriate if the prison sentence is more than nine months and the convicted person is not yet 27 years old. The probation officer has the task of supporting the convicted person during the probation phase, in particular in complying with conditions and instructions.

6. Can the suspension on probation be revoked?

Suspension on probation can be revoked by the court. Revocation occurs if a criminal offence is committed during the probation period or if conditions and instructions are persistently violated.

If the suspended sentence is revoked, the convicted person must serve the prison sentence in prison.