The Georgia First Offender ActWritten on July 1, 2014
A criminal conviction on your record will affect your life in many ways. At the top of that list is the chance of finding future employment. Most companies will ask you if you have ever been convicted of a crime on the application. Answering that question with a “yes” could very well mean you won’t be getting the job.
If you are arrested, and have never been in serious trouble before, there is a way for you to serve your sentence without a conviction ever appearing on your record. The Georgia First Offender Act is designed to give people who get in trouble a second chance by keeping the incident off of their record.
If a guilty or no contest plea is entered under The First Offender Act, the judge will sentence you to jail, probation or a combination of both. Once that sentence is complete, you can honestly tell future employers that you have never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. Even though you may have pleaded guilty, the sentence is a deferred adjudication and not a conviction. Some offenses are not eligible for First Offender status. Those include: Driving under the influence, violent felonies, serious sexual offenses and possessing/manufacturing child pornography among others.
There is, however, a catch. If sentenced under the First Offender Act, you have to stay out of trouble. That means not getting arrested for anything else and meeting all the conditions of your probation. If you are arrested, or fail to fulfill your probation obligations, the judge can re-sentence you on the original charge. The judge can even give you a harsher penalty if you fail to successfully complete First Offender. The plea will then appear as a conviction on your record.
It’s important to remember that some employers can still see a First Offender record. Those include jobs dealing with children, the elderly and the mentally disabled. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors will also be able to see all First Offender records.
A sentence under the First Offender Act is not automatic. You need an attorney on your side that will make the request on your behalf. The judge that hears the request must sign off on it as well. If the judge denies the request, you have no right to an appeal. Once you have completed the sentence, the judge on your case must sign an Order of Discharge. Once that is completed, your record with the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) will be clear of a conviction.
The First Offender Act is a great way for someone who has made a mistake to wipe the slate clean. Keep in mind that you can’t do it alone. You need an attorney to work on your behalf to see the process through. Legal counsel may also be able to help negotiate a favorable sentence for you. The attorneys at The Silverbach Group are here to help and work for you. You can reach us at 770-635-0334.