For most young people and their families, a first-time arrest is disorienting. Many folks never expect to have to deal with criminal charges, so when the seriousness of the situation sets in, it can feel frightening. Parents fear that one mistake will completely derail their child’s future, creating a criminal record that’s permanent or takes years to seal.

Nobody should have to worry about one mistake ruining future opportunities. Thankfully, Georgia’s laws support that idea when it comes to first-time offenders. That’s why, for certain offenses, there are opportunities to minimize the impact that criminal charges will have on your life. 

What are the options for handling first-time offenses?

Under Georgia’s First Offender Act, it’s possible to avoid conviction for certain types of crimes. Offenders will still be punished—they may be sentenced to jail or time in a detention facility, or they may serve a period of probation—but after they successfully complete their sentence, their case is dismissed and their record is eligible to be sealed.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Never have been convicted of a felony in Georgia or in any other state
  • Never have been sentenced as a first-time offender
  • Not be charged with DUI, serious crimes against a law enforcement officer, a serious violent felony, a serious sexual offense, crimes related to child pornography or crimes related to the electronic sexual exploitation of a minor, or any of the other excluded offenses

Is my first-time offender status automatic? 

It’s important to understand that sentencing under the First Offender Act isn’t a given. Your criminal defense lawyer will first determine if you meet the criteria. If you do, your defense attorney will ask the judge to sentence you under the act. If the judge denies the request, there is no appeal. If the judge accepts, you’ll receive deferred adjudication, meaning that your conviction won’t be immediately recorded.

While you must still serve out your punishments—see potential sentences above—you have a second chance at the future you were pursuing before your criminal charge. Of course, if you violate the terms of the deal, by committing another crime, for instance, you can lose your first-time offender status. But if you successfully complete your probation, your probation officer may request an Order of Discharge. 

After a successful first offender discharge and acquittal, if you’re asked about past convictions, you do not have any, though you still should answer honestly about past arrests. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and judicial agencies, as well as certain other agencies will always have access to your history. 

Call our team to schedule a first-time offender Strategy Meeting with one of our defense lawyers.

Our team has more than 15 years of experience working with first-time offenders. We know that the stakes are high but that there are some great options for individuals who’ve never before been in trouble with the law. While it may feel overwhelming to be charged with a crime, our process makes it simple to follow four steps to start protecting your future:

  1. Contact us to schedule a time to discuss your situation.
  2. Get clarity on your options by meeting with us.
  3. Pick which option you want. 
  4. Execute the plan together.

Our expert team works together to develop and execute a plan that minimizes the negative impacts of your arrest. For some clients, this may mean pursuing sentencing under the First Offender Act. For others, it may mean another type of disposition. 

“When I realized my child needed an attorney, I spent a few hours reading reviews online. Through my research, I decided to call Paul Ghanouni and see how I would feel about him after speaking. Well, I was sold. He was calm (I wasn’t), compassionate and very knowledgeable about our situation. He always returned calls and emails promptly and was straightforward and very realistic about what the outcome could possibly be. The outcome was amazing, better than Paul even predicted. I hope I never need the services of a criminal attorney again, but if I do, it will definitely be Mr. Ghanouni.” –Susanne, parent

At Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, we focus on defending first-time offenders who need a second chance to achieve their goals. We provide you with clarity about the process, giving you options to reduce your anxiety. If you’re ready to schedule your Defense Strategy Meeting, call us at 770-720-6336.

If you aren’t ready to set up your consultation, then click here to download our complimentary eBook, 5 Things Not to Do When You’ve Been Charged with a Crime, to learn what you need to know to start protecting your future immediately.