Throughout my years of practice, I’ve run in to a lot of mistaken beliefs about what first offender is, what first offender does, and it’s uses. The most common misconceptions about Georgia’s First Offender Act are:
• It’s my first time in trouble, the judge has to let me use First Offender.
• If I plead guilty under First Offender, I can’t get a prison sentence or jail time, get put on probation, or have any other punishments.
• If I plead guilty under First Offender, no one will ever know about my case.
• First Offender works on all types of charges.
These statements are not true. The sentencing judge always has the discretion on whether or not to accept your case under the First Offender Act. If the judge chooses not to accept your case under the First Offender Act, you could be stuck with all of the negative consequences of being convicted for the offense you are facing.
Much to many people’s disappointment, First Offender is not a get out of jail free card. In fact, using First Offender can be even riskier than pleading guilty without using First Offender, because getting in trouble while under that sentence can result in your First Offender status being revoked, and you can be re-sentenced to a potentially longer sentence than you originally received.
The easiest way to avoid the legal consequences of the criminal justice system is to make good decisions and stay out of trouble with the law.