Cobb County Criminal Defense for First Offenders
Each year, thousands of people are arrested for the first time in their lives. This is a scary situation to be in, and the arrest is simply the beginning of the process. The good news is that there may be a way to prevent this one-time mistake from hindering you the rest of your life. Hiring a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer will be the best choice you can make.
The First Offender Act
Georgia law permits first time offenders to be sentenced under what is called deferred adjudication. Technically, you don't have to be a first-time arrestee to qualify for first offender treatment. You simply have to never have been convicted of a felony previously. Thus, if you have misdemeanor convictions, you can still be sentenced under the first offender act for a subsequent felony charge. You can also use the first offender act on a misdemeanor charge. You can even use the first offender act on a misdemeanor charge if you have prior misdemeanor convictions.
Under the first offender act, the defendant does enter a guilty plea. Technically, however, they have not been convicted of the crime at that point. The defendant will be sentenced, typically to a term of probation (though jail/prison time may also be involved). If the defendant successfully completes the terms of the sentence, an order of discharge without adjudication of guilt will be entered. For all intents and purposes, this means the case is dismissed without a conviction.
The benefit of being a first offender is obvious: you end up without a conviction on your record. But the consequences of being a first offender can also be harsh if you violate your probation.
Adjudication of Guilt
Any violation of probation can result in the first offender status being revoked. What that means is that the defendant would then become convicted of the crime. If the offense is a felony, that means the person would then be a convicted felon, which has all sorts of lifelong consequences.
The other major consequence of a probation violation by a first offender is that the defendant can be resentenced by the judge. More importantly, they can be resentenced to the maximum allowable punishment provided under the law for the particular offense.
For example, aggravated assault is punishable by 1-20 years. If a normal (non-first offender) person is sentenced to five years probation and they later violate their probation, the most that can be revoked is the balance of their sentence. If the same person is instead a first offender, they can be resentenced to up to 20 years in prison, minus any time they have successfully served on probation up that point.
Being a first offender has its benefits and its consequences. These issues need to be discussed prior to deciding how to proceed with your case. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing a criminal charge for the first time, call a Marietta Criminal Defense Attorney immediately at 404-985-9772.
Types of Offenses Eligible for First Offender Treatment
Most Georgia crimes are eligible for first offender sentencing, but some are explicitly excluded from this consideration. Each and every misdemeanor is acceptable except one: driving under the influence. DUI convictions will remain on your record for life, or at least until the legislature changes this law.
Almost every single sexual related charge in Georgia is ineligible for first offender treatment. The only exceptions are sexual battery (first lifetime offense) and some instances of statutory rape, depending on the age of the defendant.
Georgia's "serious violent felonies," or "seven deadly sins," are also ineligible for first offender treatment. These are murder, armed robbery, rape, kidnapping, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated sodomy and aggravated child molestation.
Finally, certain violent offenses when committed against law enforcement officers and which result in injury to the law enforcement officer(s) are ineligible for first offender treatment.
When facing a criminal prosecution, whether eligible for first offender treatment or not, you will need a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you and to obtain the best possible resolution. Contact one today.