Understanding Georgia’s First Offender Act

Treadaway & Treadaway Sept. 25, 2018

Sometimes people make serious mistakes which negatively affect their lives. Pleading guilty to even a minor crime could have long-lasting consequences. In Georgia, the First Offender Act offers those who enter a plea of guilty in a criminal case a way in which to keep the offense off of the person’s permanent criminal history.

What Does the First Offender Act Do?

Under Georgia’s First Offender Act, you still have to complete your sentence, whether it includes straight probation or jail time. However, if request to have your plea entered under the First Offender Act, and if the court allows such treatment, you have some benefits which have the effect of preventing you from being a convicted felon.

Probation and the First Offender Act

Under the First Offender Act, if you are sentenced to probation and you violate the terms and conditions of your probated sentence, you could be re-sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed under law. This is different from a regular probated sentence in which the maximum punishment would be revocation of the probated portion of theremaining sentence. You are not eligible for treatment under the First Offender Act if you commit certain crimes including, but not limited to, many sexual offenses, violent felonies, human trafficking, etc.

Your Criminal Record

If you enter a plea of guilty under Georgia’s First Offender Act, your criminal record is not totally erased; prosecutors, judges and police will be able to see that you entered a plea of guilty under the First Offender Act. Your record remains open until you successfully complete your sentence. Once an order of discharge has been entered, the conviction is, for the most part, hidden. It is important to note, however, that the federal authorities do not recognize Georgia’s First Offender Act. This is especially important for non-United States citizens, as treatment under the First Offender Act will not protect against deportation, denial of naturalization, revocation of residency or denial of entry into the United States. Further, those seeking certain high-level security employment opportunities may have their conviction under the First Offender Act seen by potentialemployers.

Seeking First Offender Treatment After Case Conclusion

Even if you completed your criminal case with a plea of guilty quite some time ago, you may still be able to receive First Offender treatment retroactively. It is possible to petition the sentencing court to impose First Offender treatment even long after entering a plea without having sought First Offender treatment.

Contact our criminal defense attorneys at Treadaway & Treadaway if you believe you may be eligible to be sentenced under the First Offender Act. Also, if you entered a plea of guilty and did not ask for First Offender treatment, but believe that you were eligible at the time of your plea, contact out attorneys immediately for a free consultation regarding whether you may seek First Offender treatment retroactively.