First Time Offenders
An arrest is a confusing and traumatic experience, especially if you are a first-time offender. If you’ve never faced criminal charges, it is to your advantage to hire a criminal defense attorney early on in the process, to protect your rights and preserve your defenses. A qualified Florida criminal attorney can work toward maximizing your options and explore your potential defense strategies.
Pretrial Diversion or Deferred Prosecutiladenon
As a first-time offender, you may qualify for pretrial diversion (also called deferred prosecution in some areas). There are a number of factors that go into the State’s decision of whether to permit a first-time offender to enter diversion, including, but not limited to, the nature of your charge, the facts of your case, whether the alleged victim of your case agrees, your county of residency, etc. As you can imagine, this is not an automatic process, nor is it a “right” for a first-time offender.
A pretrial diversion means that your case is taken out of litigation, and instead you are put into a program. You are not taking a plea, and the court is not adjudicating the case. Depending on your situation, the program may involve attendance at classes, therapy, or other conditions that the state attorney negotiates with your Orlando criminal lawyer. After you have successfully completed this program, they will send a letter to the state attorney informing them and the case against you will be dropped. However, if you do not successfully complete the program, then your case will be put back into the system for litigation. In some cases, you may be able to ask to be placed back into the pretrial diversion program, but this option is not always available.
Should you qualify for diversion, you stand a good chance to maintain your clean criminal history, as successful completion of diversion will lead to the dismissal of the case. However, do not confuse this dismissal with a deletion of your records! Once the case is dismissed, you must petition the court to have the record deleted, which is known as an expungement. Filing a Petition to Seal or Expunge your case is a long process, which also has certain pre-conditions. For a full discussion about sealing or expunging your record, you should contact a qualified Orlando criminal lawyer to review your case.
Withhold of Adjudication
If you are unable to qualify for pretrial diversion, then you will want to seek a withhold of adjudication. As a first time offender, it is wise to take this course so that you can have a clean record when your case is over. This means that you have either taken a plea or been found guilty in court, but the court withheld adjudication. This means that you were not convicted of the crime, which can make a big difference for you. For example, if it was a felony charge, you won’t lose your rights as a result of the judgment. Also, usually you are able to seal the records for the case.
However, a withhold of adjudication can still be used for sentencing and can affect future sentences if you re-offend. It is up the discretion of the judge or the state’s attorney to give this judgment.
According to Florida law, all persons accused of a crime in state court are entitled to a bond, except for cases involving a violation of probation or first degree felonies that are punishable by life in prison. Even when charged with a life felony or VOP, a defendant may be able to secure a bond pending the outcome of the case.
There are many variables which may affect whether the court is willing to issue a bond and whether the bond follows the statutory bond schedule. Among some of the factors to which a judge may look are the criminal history of the accused, the nature of the offense charged, the facts alleged in the case, whether the accused has ever failed to appear for court, whether the accused has significant ties to the community and what risk, if any, the accused may have to re-offend if released from custody.
For a full and frank discussion on the likelihood of getting a bond, you should talk to an experienced Florida criminal attorney, with an understanding of many practice areas, about your case.