What is Joint Suspension in a California Criminal Case?

Jerod Gunsberg, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

One of the terms people frequently hear tossed around the corridors of a criminal courthouse are clients asking their attorneys if they can get a “joint suspension.” I’ve found that there is a bit of confusion as to what exactly “joint suspension” means. Here’s the deal:

In California, a court sentences a defendant to probation in one of two ways, either “imposition of sentence suspended” (ISS) or “execution of sentence suspended” (ESS). Joint suspension is the same as execution of sentence suspended. Here’s the difference between these two terms:

Imposition of sentence suspended is the default probationary sentence. The defendant is sentenced to certain terms and conditions of probation but there is no set penalty or punishment if the defendant violates probation.

Execution of sentence suspended or joint suspension is also a probationary sentence, but the punishment for violating probation in this case IS set. Usually the punishment for violating probation is a state prison sentence… which is why it’s called “joint suspension” (an old slang term for prison is “the joint” and your sentence in “the joint” is suspended).

So if you are put on “joint suspension” probation, and you violate your probation, will you be automatically sentenced to time in prison? Not necessarily. You still have the right to a probation violation hearing at which your attorney can provide evidence in your defense as well as any mitigating factors in your favor.

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