If you have been found guilty of a petty crime, then you may avoid sentencing in a process known as discharge. Alternatively, you may be sentenced, but the sentence may be kept for a later date (suspended sentence). A discharge is either absolute or conditional. Here is a brief overview of what these three things mean:

Absolute Discharge

If you get an absolute discharge, then it means that you have been found guilty, but you have not been convicted (given a sentence to serve). In effect, you are not going to be in jail, do community work, or pay any fine.  In fact, the court will not even give you any conditions to follow.

The only thing you have to worry about is the appearance of the criminal charge on your public record, but even this one goes away after one year. You don't have to apply for the record to be wiped clean; it will automatically be removed from your record. As you might imagine, this can happen only for very minor criminal charges.

Conditional Discharge

A conditional discharge is more or less similar to an absolute discharge. The only difference is that the court will give you some conditions that you must follow for a given duration. Conditions may include not getting drunk and disorderly conduct, not carrying weapons and not engaging in any criminal activity.

 If you successfully keep the court orders for the said duration, then your discharge record is automatically purged from your public record.  If you don't keep the orders, then the court will convict you of the original charge and sentence you accordingly.

Suspended Sentence

 If your sentence is suspended, then it means that you have been convicted, but your sentence is "suspended" for some time. In this case, you have to follow some court orders for a set period. It means that even though you are not serving your sentence, it can happen anytime if you break the said orders.

It is worse than a conditional discharge because the record is not automatically expunged from your records. The only chance you have of getting the record erased is if you apply for and get a pardon, which is not guaranteed.

The prospect of getting a discharge or suspended sentences should encourage you to get a good lawyer, such as Terry Napora Law Office, even for relatively minor offences.  It may mean the difference between going to jail or getting freed to continue with your life.