Under Georgia Law, a first time offender can enter a guilty plea under the First Offender Act. This is not a 'Get Out of Jail Free Card', but it may help with future opportunities and criminal records.
This article is for informational purposes only. If you have already concluded your case, please call your original attorney or a lawyer in the conviction county if you have any questions about your particular case. We only handle post conviction issues in Hall County. We do handle new cases through out Georgia.
If you have a question on how your old case is being reported, you may want to contact the conviction county’s Clerk of Court and also run your own background check at your local Sheriff’s Office.
Under the Georgia First Offender Act, a defendant, at the time of entering a guilty or Nolo plea, can request that the judge sentence the defendant to First Offender Georgia treatment. If the judge agrees to allow First Offender, then after the defendant completes the terms and conditions of the sentence (including jail time under certain cases), the defendant is deemed to not have a criminal conviction. A primary benefit of the First Offender Act in GA is that the defendant can honestly state that they have not been convicted of a crime.
O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60 reads: upon a verdict or plea of guilty or nolo contendere, but before an adjudication of guilt, the court may, in the case of a defendant who has not been previously convicted of a felony, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant, defer further proceeding and place the defendant on probation as a first offender.
First Offender does not mean that the incident is wiped away or expunged, but it does mean that it should not appear as a conviction on the defendant’s criminal history. However, law enforcement and prosecutors still have access to Georgia First Offenders Act information and it can be used in any future proceedings. Additionally, the record may be available through other sources such as records at the court house, criminal justice agency website and third party website or companies that sell this type of information. The First Offender is not automatically put in place at the end of probationary period and an additional step must be taken by the prosecutor to ensure the First Offender is certified and sent to the Georgia Criminal Information Center.
The downside of the Georgia First Offender Act is that any violation of the terms and conditions of the sentence can result in a re-sentencing of the defendant up to the maximum sentence. Also important is that certain jobs such as teaching, child care, elder care are exempt under O.C.G.A. § 42-8-63.1 when the defendant is charged with certain violent, sexual or abuse charges. Likewise, DUI and certain violent, sexual and abuse charges are specifically exempt from any First Offender treatment.
Obviously, First Offender can only be used once. However, in some cases, a judge will allow a person with a criminal record of misdemeanors to plea under First Offender if they have not previously used it. First Offender can be used either for a misdemeanor or a felony, but not one of each. Also, if handled correctly, multiple pending cases can sometimes be resolved with variations of First Offender and Conditional Discharge.
If the crime that is resolved by a First Offender Plea includes jail time, the First Offender Act will not change the custodial portion or length of time. 1st Offender is not a Get Out of Jail Card.
About the attorney: Anne Bishop is a Georgia Lawyer with A. Bishop Law in Gainesville, Georgia and handles various DUI / DWI, Marijuana Arrests and other Georgia Criminal Defense matters. The law office of A. Bishop Law can assist clients throughout Georgia including: Hall County (Gainesville, Oakwood, Flowery Branch), Jackson County (Jefferson, Braselton) White County (Helen, Cleveland), Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), Dawson County (Dawsonville), Habersham County (Demorest, Cornelia), and all of Northeast Georgia.
This article and/or video should not be considered nor relied upon as legal advice since it is only intended for general overview and informational purposes. Please consult with an attorney on your specific situation in order to determine an appropriate legal course of action.