Georgia First Offender Act
Similar to pretrial diversion or conditional discharge, Georgia has another program that would allow defendants to have their charge removed from their criminal program. The Georgia First Offender Act allows some first-time offenders to avoid a conviction by completing certain requirements. It is not a substitute for punishment but an alternative to a conviction on your record. Lawson and Berry are very familiar with the First Offender Act and can give you helpful information. Contact our offices today for a free case evaluation and to see if you or a loved one would be included under the Act.
Georgia Code §42-8-60 sets up this defense and reads as follows:
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.
Who Is Eligible for the First Offender Program?
There are many requirements in order to be considered for the program. First, you must not have been convicted of a felony in not just Georgia, but any state. Second, you cannot have already been sentenced as a first offender. Third, the crime in which you are charged must not be a serious violent felony, serious sexual offense, DUI, or related to child pornography.
Do You Automatically Get Into the Program if You are a First Offender?
No, it is not automatic. Your Attorney is responsible for informing you as to your eligibility for sentencing as a first offender. After that, you must inform the Court of your willingness to enter into the program and the prosecutor will determine if you are eligible as well. Ultimately, the judge has the discretion to allow first offender treatment for a defendant.
What Will the Sentence Consist Of?
The First Offender program could include fees, probation, programs, and jail time.
How Does the First Offender Program Work Concerning My Charges?
If the defendant successfully completes all terms of the program and does not commit a new crime during the process, they will not have a conviction. Furthermore, the charge or will be sealed from your official criminal history. What will happen is that after you complete the program, your probation officer will ask the judge to issue an Order of Discharge. This Order will be filed with the Clerk's office, and the Clerk will enter the Order on your official Georgia criminal history record. This allows for your case to be sealed from your GCIC criminal history record for most employers. However, remember that lawyers, law enforcement, judges, and police will always be able to see the charge.
Also, if you are arrested and convicted of another crime while still on first offender probation, your status from first offender will be changed to a conviction.
If you believe you or a loved one is eligible for first offender treatment, contact our offices today. It is in your best interest to start exploring this avenue first and not to delay. Contact our office anytime. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because we understand that crime does not follow regular working hours. Contact us today to assist with your case.