As a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I try to focus as many of my posts on opportunities and options for those accused of crimes here in Georgia – including explanations of Georgia Criminal Defenses. Today, my focus will be on the Georgia First Offender Act, which is a program that is very similar to Georgia Pretrial Diversion.
The Georgia First Offender Act allows defendants to have their charge actually removed from their criminal record because there is no actual conviction. It only applies to some first-time offenders, but it does allow the defendant to avoid a conviction provided that he or she completes certain requirements.
The Georgia First Offender Act is not a mere substitute for punishment, but better explained as an alternative to having a conviction on your record.
Georgia Law on the Georgia First Offender Act
The Georgia Code defines the Georgia First Offender Act as:
Where a defendant has not been previously convicted of a felony, the court may, upon a verdict or plea of guilty or nolo contendere, and before adjudication of guilt, without entering a judgment of guilty and with the consent of the defendant, defer future proceedings and place the defendant on probation or sentence the defendant to a term of confinement. O.C.G.A. §42-8-60.
Requirements of the Georgia First Offender Act
There are eligibility requirements to even be considered for the program. The requirements are as follows:
- No felony convictions in Georgia or in any other state.
- No prior first offender sentencing.
- The crime cannot be a serious violent felony (i.e. armed robbery in Georgia), DUI in Georgia, or related to child pornography.
That being said, even if you're a first-time offender and meet all of the requirements, you may not get into the program. It is not automatic.
Your Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney will be responsible for informing you about your eligibility for sentencing as a first offender under the Georgia First Offender Act. Your responsibility is to inform the court of both your willingness and your desire to enter into the program. From there, the prosecution will determine if you are eligible, and then judge will decide whether to allow or reject first offender treatment.
The program itself can include:
- Jail time
You have to complete all the components of the program in order to get the benefit of using the First Offender Act. This includes not committing a new crime. If completed successfully, you will not have a conviction on your record. The charge itself will be sealed from your criminal history. However, if you are arrested and convicted of a new crime while on the First Offender Probation, your first-offender status will immediately be changed to a conviction.
I mention this every time I focus on an alternative program or a defense strategy – the law is very complicated, and you should not attempt to utilize the Georgia First Offender Act on your own. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Georgia, contact our offices today. We can explore this option and many others to see what works best for your case.