Most people have experienced a moment in life when they had a lapse in judgment. Georgia’s First Offender Act (O.C.G.A. 42-8-60 et. seq.) is a law aimed at giving some first time offenders a second chance. For those who are eligible, the First Offender Act protects a person from a conviction and seals the charge from his or her official criminal history.
Sentencing under the First Offender Act is not available to all of those who are charged with their first crime. In order to be eligible for Georgia’s First Offender Act, the person can never have been convicted of a felony in any state or previously sentenced as a First Offender.
Additionally, the individual cannot be facing charges relating to:
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Crime committed against a law enforcement officer
- Serious violent felony (O.C.G.A. §17-10-6.1), including but not limited to murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, and aggravated sexual battery
- Serious sexual offense (O.C.G.A. §17-10-6.2), including but not limited to aggravated assault with the intent to rape, sexual assault, statutory rape, and child molestation
- Crime related to child pornography (O.C.G.A. §16-12-100.2)
- Electronic sexual exploitation of a minor (O.C.G.A. §§ 16-12-100, et. seq)
Those who wish to be considered for Georgia’s First Offender Act must ask the judge for consideration under the law prior to sentencing. Despite meeting the eligibility criteria as discussed above, a judge may deny the defendant, and that decision cannot be appealed.
When being sentenced under the First Offender Act, the defendant pleads guilty through a deferred adjudication, meaning the guilty plea does not result in a conviction if the terms of the plea deal are upheld. Upon successfully completing the probation terms, the court will discharge the case without conviction, sealing the criminal records from the official criminal history. However, if the probation terms are violated, the judge may revoke the First Offender status, leaving the defendant open to the maximum sentencing for the original crime.
In the past, many individuals who were eligible for Georgia’s First Offender Act failed to take advantage of their second chance simply because they did not know to ask for it. With the passing of HB 310 during the legislative session and taking effect on July 1, 2015, all Georgians who are eligible for the First Offender Act will now be notified before it is too late. Those who were previously eligible but not informed of their eligibility are able to petition the court for retroactive first offender treatment.
For more information or to request a case evaluation, call our law office at (770) 822-0900. We have been very successful at reaching the best possible outcome for our clients, and our attorneys are here to help you through this difficult and stressful time.
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