According to Official Georgia Code 42-8-60 (The First Offender Act), a criminal defendant can be exonerated of guilt and discharged as a matter of law despite being found guilty by a jury or entering a guilty plea. This means that even if you are charged, arrested, and convicted of a crime, you can still avoid having a criminal conviction on your record by using this law. However, it is very important that you know when to use this, and the potential consequences of using this before agreeing to a First Offender Sentence.
Can anyone use the First Offender Act?
You can use the First Offender Act only if you have never used the First Offender Act before and you have never been convicted of a felony (including crimes in other States).
You cannot use the First Offender Act for a serious violent felony, a serious sex crime, exploiting children or the elderly, crimes against law enforcement officers, or for driving under the influence.
How does the First Offender Act work?
You and your attorney must request a first offender sentence from the judge. If the judge allows your case to be sentenced under the First Offender Act, he or she will then explain your rights and the conditions of your sentence which can include time in confinement, probation, fines, restitution, community service, drug and alcohol treatment, and any other conditions the judge finds appropriate.
If you complete the conditions of your First Offender Sentence you will avoid having any criminal conviction appear on your record.
What happens if I violate the terms of my First Offender Sentence?
If a judge finds that you have violated the terms of your First Offender Sentence by failing to comply with the court ordered conditions, or committing a new offense, the court will enter an adjudication of guilt for your original charges and you will have a criminal conviction appear on your record.
As further punishment for violating the terms of your First Offender Sentence, you will also be re-sentenced and you will be subject to the maximum punishments for your original charges.
Can I use my First Offender Act for a Misdemeanor?
Yes, but you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney before making this decision. If you use your first offender sentence for a minor crime, you will not be able to use it later in life if you are facing a much more serious crime. There are many options an experienced criminal defense attorney can examine to help you avoid a criminal conviction and preserve your First Offender Rights for any potential need to use it in the future.
Can I carry a firearm if I was sentenced for a felony under the First Offender Act?
Your right to own and possess a firearm will be restored ONLY AFTER THE COMPLETION of your First Offender Sentence. It is illegal for anyone currently serving a First Offender Sentence to carry a firearm and being arrested for doing so can result in your prosecution for illegally carrying a firearm, as well as the revocation of your original First Offender Sentence.
Will my employer be able to see my First Offender Sentence on a background check?
If you are serving your First Offender sentence, or if you have completed your first offender sentence, you WILL NOT have a conviction appear on your background check. However, your arrest and any other public records related to your First Offender sentence may be accessible for your employer to see on a private background check.
Legal Counsel for a First Offender Sentence
If you have further questions about the First Offender Act, contact Awad Legal Team today. They are waiting to answer your questions and clarify any misunderstandings.