The acronym "SIS" stands for "suspended imposition of sentence" and is usually accompanied by some form of probation as punishment when you are found guilty of a crime. A SIS is NOT a "type" of probation. It should more accurately be described as a "time" of probation because with an SIS, the judge places you on probation before he pronounces sentence, instead of after. By granting you a SIS and placing you on probation, the judge gives you the opportunity to avoid being sentenced altogether by successfully completing that probation term.
Before you agree to a SIS, you should understand the full implications it will have on your criminal record and exposure to future punishment.
What are the benefits of receiving an SIS?
- You can avoid a criminal conviction by completing the requirements of probation set by the court. Once you successfully complete probation, your case is closed and you can never be sentenced or receive further punishment for it.
- Your case will come off public court databases such as Missouri's Casenet after you successfully complete probation. This prevents friends, family and future employers from finding records of your case with just a simple records search.
- You can prevent your driving privileges from being revoked or suspended. Since an SIS is not a criminal conviction, you will avoid points being added to your license or mandatory license suspensions that accompany more serious driving offenses such as DWI or leaving the scene of an accident.
- You can regain constitutional rights normally forfeited by a felony conviction. For example, if you receive a felony conviction, you are no longer allowed to possess a firearm. However, when you receive an SIS you are able to legally possess a firearm again once your probation is over.
- While you will not technically receive a criminal "conviction" when you get an SIS, you will still have been "found guilty" of the crime. This means if you are asked on a future job application whether or not you've ever been found guilty of a crime, the correct answer would still be "yes" even though you did not receive a criminal conviction.
- Punishments can be worse if you violate your probation. If you violate probation, you will be brought back before the judge and they will decide how you should be sentenced for the crime. They will have all punishments available to them under the law - so if your original crime carried the possibility of a prison or jail sentence, the judge could revoke your SIS and lock you up.
- Even after you complete probation, your case could still be found on future background checks. If you apply for a job with a company or government organization that does a more thorough background check, the case could still show up. You would need to explain to them your criminal record - especially if you answered "no" to whether or not you've been found guilty of a prior crime.
If you find yourself in plea negotiation with a prosecutor and a SIS is on the table, make sure you are aware of all the possible benefits and pitfalls in agreeing to it. While it can be a great way to avoid a criminal conviction and keep your record somewhat clean, it is not a perfect, long-term solution for the reasons stated above. Always consult with your lawyer fully about the unique facts of your case and your specific life circumstances before agreeing to any plea deal, including one that offers you an SIS.
If I got a SIS, how do I keep people from finding it?
Finally, if you're reading this blog post having already received a SIS in the past and realizing that maybe your criminal record is not as clean as you once thought it was, you should consider an expungement. An expungement will seal your criminal record so that you can move forward confidently in life and at work. If that interests you, please read more about our expungement practice.