A person’s first criminal conviction is a bleak moment he remembers for the rest of his life. For the person convicted, this is a time full of stress and worry over what comes next. One can be labeled a first time offender at almost any age, from a juvenile to an adult. Sentencing varies by the type of crime committed, such as whether the crime was violent or nonviolent. Overall, the punishment issued tends to be more lenient for first offenders. A criminal defense attorney who is actively involved in the case of a first-time criminal offender can uncover avenues that lead to dropped charges and a clean record.
Status as a first offender requires that the person arrested meet certain criteria. First and foremost, the first offender must be able to prove that he has not committed or is not connected to any other crimes in his lifetime. Ordinary traffic infractions are not considered for establishing a criminal record; however, serious traffic violations such as driving with a suspended license and reckless driving are considered criminal offenses. It is important for a first offender to fully disclose his history to a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
A person who has been exposed to the criminal justice system due to a previous arrest who was later released or acquitted of a crime cannot be considered a first time offender under the law, even if he did not serve time for the previous offense. Leniency toward first-time offenders aims to ward off habitual offenders. First-time offenders are typically arrested for relatively minor and nonviolent offenses, like shoplifting or drug possession. By reducing the punishment or offering diversionary treatment, the courts and the state do not seek to punish harshly under the full extent of the law; rather, they try to prevent a first-time offender from pursuing a criminal future.
What is the Difference Between Nonviolent and Violent Crimes in Florida?
The courts distinguish between violent and nonviolent crimes. Violent crimes typically involve the threat or use of violence upon a victim. Common examples include:
- Assault and battery
- Murder (homicide/ manslaughter)
- Domestic violence
- Robbery (forceful theft) & Burglary
- Sexual assault and abuse
Nonviolent crimes do not cause physical harm, and include:
- Property crimes like theft and embezzlement
- White collar crimes like identity theft or tax evasion
- Drug and alcohol crimes
What is Florida Pretrial Intervention?
In some cases, first offenders can avoid a trial or plea by enrolling in a Florida Pretrial Intervention program. First offenders who have committed nonviolent crimes and have not been convicted of more than one nonviolent misdemeanor or charged with a misdemeanor or third-degree felony are eligible for diversionary treatment.
To be accepted into a pretrial intervention program, a first offender must consult with a Florida criminal defense attorney. This program provides counseling services, supervision, education, as well as medical/ psychological services when applicable to the case. This is a rehabilitation attempt that, if all steps are completed appropriately and without violations, leads to dropped charges. The specifics of the program vary by whether the first time offender was charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, and also by the specifics of the crime. It is possible to apply to have charges expunged after successfully completing a pretrial intervention program.
Finding a Lawyer to Enroll in Pretrial Diversion Programs
Consult with a West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options if you have been arrested for the very first time. It may be possible to enroll you in a pretrial diversion program such as the intervention program discussed above to help you avoid criminal charges and a permanent criminal record. Attorney Brian Gabriel has a thorough understanding of criminal law in Palm Beach County and has helped countless defendants overcome their charges. Serving South Florida for over 25 years, he is determined to analyze every aspect of your case and work on a plan for your liberation. Call (561) 622-5575 today or contact us.