Avoiding a Criminal Record with the First Offender Act Georgia
If you are a first-time offender in Georgia, you may be able to avoid a conviction and a criminal record through the First Offender Program. It shouldn’t be looked at as a substitute for punishment but as an alternative to a conviction. In fact, depending on your charges, you may still have to pay fines, complete a certain jail time, probation, or complete court-required counseling.
The defendant has to comply with the court’s order to be exonerated of guilt and have their criminal record sealed.
However, not everyone is eligible for the First Offender Program, and getting into the Georgia first offender program is not automatic. It is up to your attorney to inform you whether you are eligible for the first offender status and more lenient sentencing under this act. The prosecutor will assess your eligibility, and the judge will decide whether or not to grant you first-offender treatment.
If you are facing criminal charges, the sooner you consult with an Atlanta criminal defense attorney, the better. An attorney from Farnsworth & Murphy, LLC, may be able to help you keep your criminal record clean.
What Is the Georgia First Offenders Act?
The State of Georgia has several programs for first-offenders. The most common are conditional discharge, pretrial diversion, and the First Offender Act. These programs allow defendants who take responsibility for their actions and show they are not likely to commit another offense to have their conviction sealed.
The First Offenders Act aims to reduce the number of incarcerated people. At the same time, it helps eligible first offenders avoid the lasting effects of a conviction.
The Act is found under the Georgia Code § 42-8-60, and it provides that upon guilty plea or nolo contendere, but before adjudication of guilt, a defendant may be placed on probation or sentenced to a term of confinement as a first offender.
If the defendant successfully completes the terms of the first offender program and doesn’t commit a new crime, they will be convicted, and their criminal record will be sealed.
Exoneration and Criminal Record Sealing
If the defendant is placed on first-offender probation and completes it, the Department has to notify the clerk of the court that imposed the first-offender sentence within 30 days. If the defendant was sentenced to a prison term, the Department of Corrections has to notify the clerk of the court that imposed the first offender sentence. The Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) may also notify the court that a defendant has completed their sentence.
After the clerk of court is notified about the completion of the sentence, they must enter this information on the criminal docket within 30 days, stating that the defendant is exonerated of the charge.
However, if the defendant commits another crime before completing the program or violates the terms of their sentence, the court may revoke their first offender status, enter adjudication of guilt, and sentence the defendant under the law. The judge can impose even the maximum allowable punishment for that particular crime.
What Is the Retroactive First Offender Act?
You or a loved one may be eligible for a retroactive first-offender treatment if you weren’t aware of the program at the time of your sentencing. This means that even if you are now serving time for a first offense, you may be able to apply for the first offenders program and benefit from exoneration and record sealing.
Experienced attorneys from Farnsworth & Murphy, LLC can assess the details of your case and let you know whether you are eligible for the first offender treatment under Georgia law. We can make sure the whole process goes as smoothly as possible.
Eligibility for the Georgia First Offenders Program
To be eligible for the first offenders program, you must not have been previously convicted in Georgia or any other state.
Moreover, you can only be sentenced as a first offender once. So, if you have already used the First Offender treatment, it won’t be available to you anymore, regardless of what crime is in question.
Crimes not Eligible Under the Georgia First Offender Act
Defendants charged with any of the following crimes are not eligible for the Georgia first offenders program:
- Serious violent felony (murder, rape, aggravated sexual battery)
- Serious sexual offense (sodomy, incest, child molestation)
- People trafficking for labor or sexual servitude
- Abuse or exploitation of disabled adults or elderly persons
- Sexual exploitation of minors
- Computer pornography and child exploitation
- Aggravated assault or aggravated battery against law enforcement officers
Certain drug-related crimes may not be eligible for the first offenders program but could be eligible for a conditional discharge. An Atlanta Drug Crime Attorney at Farnsworth & Murphy LLC can tell you more.
Your Rights Under the Georgia First Offender Act
The defendant sentenced under the First Offender Act has the right to appeal in the same way as if they were convicted of the crime. It’s best to hire an appeals attorney if you want to challenge the court’s sentence under this Act.
Your Duties Under the Georgia First Offender Act
The First Offenders Act doesn’t mean defendants will go unpunished for their crimes. They have to uphold their end of the bargain. First and foremost, they have to stay out of trouble and avoid being convicted of another offense.
Furthermore, they have to complete all special conditions of their probation ordered by the judge, pay fines, and attend meetings with the probation officer. Failing to uphold these conditions will result in re-sentencing.
Think You Are Eligible for the Georgia First Offender Program? Give Us a Call!
Everyone can make a mistake that can result in a criminal conviction. Whether you are convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor, the First Offenders Act allows you to prevent that one mistake from ruining your life.
If you think you may be eligible for the First Offender treatment, don’t hesitate to consult with lawyers at Farnsworth & Murphy, LLC. We have helped many clients get the most favorable and positive outcomes in their criminal cases, and we can help you, too. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!