In some cases, first-time offenders in Florida may receive the court’s mercy. This could mean that, instead of facing imprisonment, first-time offenders may be suitable for rehabilitation or, if the prosecutor agrees, charges may be dropped altogether.
However, this option is only available for certain crimes. In the following sections, you will find more information about what a first-time offender in Florida is, what happens when you commit a first offense, and some potential results for your case.
What is a First Time Offender in Florida?
In Florida, a first-time offender is a person that is facing a criminal conviction for the first time. Depending on the severity of the crime, first-time offenders may receive the court’s mercy. Court leniency is less likely to be available for violent crimes and offenses that involve the use of weapons.
First-time offenders in Florida are people that have never been convicted of a crime. In these cases, the punishments could be more lenient since the criminal justice system seeks to rehabilitate first-offenders and prevent them from pursuing a criminal career.
Usually, this opportunity is available for non-violent crimes where the offender is not perceived as a risk to the community or others. Examples of these offenses include, but are not limited to:
- Drug possession
- Juvenile offenses
- Disorderly intoxication
First-time offenders that were charged with a violent crime or an offense that involved the use of weapons may not receive the court’s mercy. Examples of severe first-offenses include, but are not limited to:
- Hit and run
- Murder and manslaughter
- Sex crimes
- Aggravated assault
- Domestic violence
Although the sentencing may vary depending on the situation, many first-time offenders in Florida are placed under a pretrial intervention program. Just like probation, if you are placed under a diversion program, you are expected to fulfill certain obligations and conditions.
According to Florida Statute § 948.07, if your participation in the program is satisfactory, the court will dismiss your charges. Even though a diversion program is a potential option for first-time offenders, you may want to consult a criminal lawyer before entering a program.
What Happens If It’s Your First Offense in Florida?
In Florida, prosecutors and the court might exercise a degree of leniency with first-time offenders. If you were charged for the first time, there are several advantages this can have:
Dropping or Reducing Your Charges
With a first-time offender, a criminal defense attorney may be able to use the lack of previous criminal offenses as a way to present your case in the best light. In this case, the attorneys at Goldman Wetzel may be able to have a pre-filing intervention and convince the prosecutor to file lesser charges or perhaps even drop the case altogether.
In Florida, a withhold of adjudication is often available for first-offenders. Since the state considers that rehabilitating the person may prevent them from pursuing a criminal career, first-offenders that receive a withhold of adjudication are not convicted. To know if this is a viable option for your case, book an appointment with one of our criminal lawyers.
Sealing or Expunging Your Record
In Florida, first-time offenders with a withhold of adjudication or who obtain a formal dismissal may be able to have the court seal or expunge their records.
Sealing/expungement can be extremely advantageous since having a mark on your criminal record could thwart future career and educational opportunities. If the court exercised a degree of leniency with you, you may also be eligible to seal or expunge your record. For more information about this process, make sure to consult with a defense lawyer.
First-Time Offender? Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
Being charged with a crime in Florida can be a stressful experience, especially, if this is the first time that you have experienced any trouble with the law. If you want to know what legal options are available to you as a first-offender, schedule a free consultation with the criminal lawyers at Goldman Wetzel.