Do you know what to do when you are facing your first criminal offense in Georgia? The Goad Law Firm gives a few tips that can help you understand your options.
First-Time Criminal Charge Defense
Every year thousands of people are arrested for the first time. That can be frightening, and the arrest is only the beginning of the process. If it results in a criminal conviction, that can have a detrimental effect on a person’s life. But the good news is that there may be a way to prevent the one-time mistake from hindering the rest of their life.
The Goad Law Firm understands how scary it can be when you’re facing criminal charges for the first time. Above all else, we don’t want you to lose hope. Anyone facing criminal charges for the first time should know about Georgia law O.C.G.A. 42-8-60, also known as Georgia’s First Offender Act.
What Is Georgia First Offender Act?
The Georgia First Offender Act is an alternative sentencing option. It allows first-time offenders with no previous felony conviction to avoid a conviction and a criminal record by completing certain requirements.
Technically, you don’t have to be arrested for the first time to be eligible for a first-offender status. You could be eligible even if previously convicted of a misdemeanor offense. However, you must not have a felony conviction on your record.
The defendant does plead guilty but is not convicted at that point. Typically, the defendant is sentenced to probation, but prison or jail time, fines, and community service can also be involved. The case will be dismissed without a conviction upon successfully completing the terms of a first-offender sentence. But bear in mind that the consequences can be harsh if you violate first-offender probation. Failing to uphold first-offender sentencing conditions can result in losing first-offender status and being re-sentenced to the maximum penalty.
Who Is Eligible for a First-Offender Treatment?
Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor or a felony, your case may be eligible for a first-offender plea. If you’re facing a drug charge, see our drug offenses page (specifically dealing with drug charges and O.C.G.A. 16-13-2).
If you’re not facing drug charges, or if you’ve already taken a plea pursuant to O.C.G.A. 16-13-2, keep reading.
You’re eligible for a First Offender Plea if:
- You have never been convicted of a felony (in any state);
- You have never been sentenced as a First Offender;
- Your charge is not Driving under the Influence (DUI);
- Your charge is not a serious crime committed against a law enforcement officer engaged in his or her duties;
- Your charge is not a serious violent felony
- Your charge is not a serious sexual offense
- Your charge is not related to child pornography and
- Your charge is not related to the electronic sexual exploitation of a minor or computer pornography
Do First-Offenders Automatically Get Into the First-Offender Program?
No. If you are eligible for first-offender treatment, your attorney will inform you. If you decide to pursue it, you have to inform the Court, so the prosecutor can determine whether you are eligible. In the end, the judge will decide whether to allow it or not.
Facing a GA First Offense? Have a Qualified Attorney Review Your Case
A first-offender plea should only be utilized once an attorney has reviewed all the evidence in your case and you’ve had an opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s evidence.
If you decide it’s in your best interest to take a guilty plea, then you should have a discussion with your lawyer about Georgia’s First Offender Act.
You’ll likely need the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. The Goad Law Firm has helped countless men and women facing their first criminal charge. Give us a call today 912-209-9000.