Suspended sentence

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A suspended sentence is a legal term for a judge's delaying of a defendant's serving of a sentence after they have been found guilty, in order to allow the defendant to perform a period of probation. If the defendant does not break the law during that period, and fulfills the particular conditions of the probation, the judge usually dismisses the sentence.[1]


In Australia, suspended sentences are commonly imposed in order to alleviate the strain on overcrowded prisons. For example, an individual may be sentenced to a six-month jail term, wholly suspended for six months; if they commit any other offence during that year, the original jail term is immediately applied in addition to any other sentence.

The Victorian Government is currently in the process of removing the ability of courts to issue suspended sentences, with the Supreme and County Courts no longer able to apply them, and the stated intention of removing the option from the magistrates court no later than September 2014.[2]



Suspended sentence is called ehdollinen vankeusrangaistus in Finnish, which translates to "conditional imprisonment". When a sentence of imprisonment is imposed conditionally, the enforcement of the sentence is postponed for a probation period. The length of the probation period is at least one and at most three years. The probation period begins at the pronouncement or the issue of the judgment. When conditional imprisonment is imposed, the convicted person shall be notified, in connection with the pronouncement or the issue of the judgment, of the date when the probation period ends and of the grounds on which the sentence may be ordered to be enforced.

The court may order the enforcement of conditional imprisonment if the convicted person commits an offence during the probation period and the charge has been brought within one year of the end of the probation period. In this event, the conditional sentence to be enforced, the sentence for the offence committed during the probation period and the sentences of imprisonment for the other offences considered in the same trial shall be joined as one unconditional sentence of imprisonment. The court may also order that conditional imprisonment be enforced only in part, in which case the remainder of the sentence shall continue to be conditional, subject to the same probation period.


Suspended sentences (執行猶予 shikkō yūyo?) are common practice in Japan and can be applied in cases where a sentence is for up to 3 years in prison and/or 500,000 yen in fines. Any criminal activity during the period of the suspended sentence will result in the cancellation of the sentence and imprisonment for the prescribed term.[3]

United States[edit]

In the United States, it is common practice for judges to hand down suspended sentences to first-time offenders who have committed a minor crime, and for prosecutors to recommend suspended sentences as part of a plea bargain. They are often given to mitigate the effect of penalties.[4]

In some jurisdictions, the criminal record of the guilty party will still carry the offence, even after probation is adequately served.[5] In other cases, the process of deferred adjudication prevents the conviction from appearing on a person's criminal record, once probation had been completed.

In the federal system, judges' authority to suspend sentences has been abolished, by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, through the United States Sentencing Commission, and upheld by Mistretta v. United States.[citation needed]

People's Republic of China[edit]

In the People's Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), both suspended sentences and suspended sentencing (Chinese: 缓刑, also translated as a sentence "with reprieve") are featured in the criminal law. In the first situation, a fixed term sentence of three years or below can be suspended. In the second situation, sentencing does not immediately follow the guilty verdict, but instead is determined after a period of probation.

Death sentences can also be suspended (called a "death sentence with reprieve"), so that an offender who does not intentionally re-offend during the two-year suspension period would have the sentence commuted to a life sentence.

See also[edit]