Month: July 2014

How can a criminal defendant protect their criminal record from a felony conviction?

Protecting your criminal record is extremely important. A criminal record can affect the ability for a person to obtain employment, the person’s right to vote, the person’s right to obtain a carrying permit, or the person’s driver’s license privileges. If a person is faced with pending felony charges, the Defendant should consult with their attorney about whether they would qualify for first offender status.

Under some circumstances, upon a verdict or plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contender, but before an adjudication of guilt,  AND when the Defendant has no prior felony conviction  in any state, the court may consent to allowing the defendant to serve out his or her sentence under the first offender statute. The court will not sentence a defendant under the first offender statute if the defendant has been found guilty of or entered a plea of guilty or a nolo contendere for: a serious violent felony under O.C.G.A. Section 17-106.1; a sexual offense as defined in O.C.G.A. 17-10-6.2; sexual exploitation of a minor as defined by O.C.G.A. 16-12-100; electronically furnishing obscene material to a minor; computer pornography and child exploitation;  and the defendant is  not charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

The benefit of using the first offender act can be high, but it is also important to be aware of the risks associated with using it as well. If a person is sentenced under the Georgia First Offender Act, and the person successfully completes all of the terms of the sentence without committing a new crime, then the person will not receive a conviction and the charge will be sealed from the person’s criminal history. However, if a person does not successfully complete their sentence, the judge can revoke the first offender status and the person can be convicted with the offense. The judge also has the ability at that time to re-sentence the defendant to serve the maximum amount of time for the sentence in prison as allowable under the original offense.