first Offender's Act

Georgia First Offender’s Act:

The state of Georgia offers a deal for people who have committed their first offense.  As one would expect, it is called the Georgia First Offender’s Act. However, like all deals, it comes at a price.  There are pros and cons to the first offender’s act.

Many people who live outside of the criminal life are shocked and chilled to the bone when they find themselves in a situation where they need to deal with police, lawyers, and judges.  Most people have one thing in common, they just want it to go away, as fast as it possibly can, so they can move on with their lives.

Here are the positives of the Georgia First Offenders Act.  You have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime. Believe it or not, that felony arrest and conviction can be sealed.  The charge will still be there while completing first offender, but once completed the hope is your move forward without future arrests.  If you are ever asked if you have been convicted of a crime, you can honestly answer “no”.  Most employers will be unable to access your criminal arrest record.  However, even though employers cannot access it, keep in mind that law enforcement can access this.  If you are arrested again, the police and courts will still know about your first offender sentence.

In order to receive the First Offenders Act, you must be sentenced by the court under the First Offender’s act.   First Offender’s can be used for either a felony or a misdemeanor.  Therefore, if you use it on misdemeanors, and end up later being charged with a felony for the first time, you would not be able to use the first offender act for a second time on your subsequent felony case.

There are responsibilities that come with taking the First Offender’s plea: you must uphold your end of the bargain with the judge.  That means, first and foremost, staying out of anymore legal trouble, complete any special conditions of your probation ordered by the judge, pay all fines to the courts, and attend meetings with the probation officer.  If you fail to uphold the conditions of your plea you can be re-sentenced, lose the benefit of your First Offender’s status, and be sentenced to the maximum penalty your originally faced, meaning you could now be going to prison.

The greatest fear of everyday people when arrested for a crime is that they are going to be mixed with the worst of career felons.   There are uncomfortable truths about the First Offender’s Act.   It is not a free pass out of jail.  You can be sentenced to jail time by the judge. After you do your time your first offender status allows you to move on with your life with the hope your criminal history will not follow you.

In some situations it is possible to use the first offenders act after your case is closed. The Georgia Legislature enacted an amendment to the first time offender law effective on July 1st, 2015. This amendment provides that a person who was convicted and sentenced for their first felony, but were not treated as a first time offender law, can be retroactively sentenced as a first time offender. If the Court finds that the convicted person would have been sentenced as a first time offender at the time of their original trial if they had known to ask such of the judge, then they can be discharged of the conviction, allowed to go through the probation program provided by the first time offender law, and upon completion have the record modified to no longer reflect a felony conviction.

That being said since this amendment is a relatively new law, many lawyers are completely unaware of it and the procedure required to correct a first time offender’s felony conviction. Atlanta-area attorney Andrew Lynch prides himself on being up to date with the latest in the law so he can know for sure his clients are taken care of. If you are charged with your first time felony, or if you have already been convicted of a felony because you were not made aware of the first time offender law, you need to call attorney Andrew Lynch for a free consultation. Do not let a mistake force you to be labeled a felon your entire life.

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