The First Offender Act is available to many people facing criminal charges in Georgia. If a defendant has not previously been convicted of a felony, that defendant upon entering a plea of guilty, nolo contendere, or being found guilty at trial may be sentenced under the provisions of the first offender act by the sentencing judge.
After a review of the defendant's criminal history the judge may sentence the defendant pursuant to the first offender act. This sentence may be probation and/or a term of confinement. The judge, however, will do sentence the defendant without entering an adjudication of guilt. Meaning, that although the defendant is under sentence, they will not be considered to have been convicted of the crime.
Pros and Cons of First Offender
Like many things there are both pros and cons of first offender. When used, and successfully completed, first offender is a tool that can truly give someone a second chance at a life unencumbered by the burdens of being marked a felon. The negative consequences for failing to successfully complete first offender, however, can sometimes deter some folks from taking advantage of the opportunity.
If a defendant will be completely exonerated of guilty and will stand discharged as a matter of law as soon as the defendant completes his sentence. Additionally, Georgia law permits a judge to order your records be sealed while you are on first offender probation. The restriction of your records is not automatic. Your attorney must file a motion with the court and the judge must enter an order to that effect, so be sure to ask your attorney about this motion and order. Having your records restricted will be incredibly helpful as you continue your career and education pursuits.
First and foremost, you only get one chance at first offender - it cannot be used multiple times. For instance, if you use first offender on a misdemeanor case and later face a felony arrest you will not be able to use first offender on the felony case.
Second, a violation of the terms of your probation, or a conviction for another crime during the term of the first offender probation, may result in a judge adjudicating you guilty. If you are adjudicated guilty on a first offender violation then the judge may re-sentence you to the max less any time you have already served on your sentence. This is a stark contrast to a standard probation violation. The difference will be illustrated in the example below.
1. Defendant is sentenced to eight years probation on an aggravated assault charge (aggravated assault is punishable by up to twenty years). After serving four years on probation, and with four years remaining, the defendant violates a special condition of probation. In this case the judge could revoke the balance of the defendant's probation (so, four years), but no more than that.
2. In this example, defendant is sentenced to eight years probation on the same aggravated assault charge, but this time under the first offender act. After serving four years on probation, and with four years remaining, the defendant violates a condition of his first offender probation. In this case, the repercussion from violation probation is much worse. The judge can adjudicate the defendant guilty, and sentence him the max less any time already served. So, this defendant could be sent to prison for up to sixteen years (16!) for this violation of probation.
Contact a Newnan Defense Attorney
Contact us today and set up a consultation with Ryan so that we may begin preparing your defense. Don't fight a potentially devastating first offender revocation alone.