Having a felony conviction can keep you from voting (for a period of time), sitting on a jury, or ever owning a firearm. Most importantly, it can keep you from getting a job. But there is hope for 1st offenders. This guide will provide you options on how to keep a felony off your record.
Pretrial Diversion Programs
Many courts offer a type of pretrial diversion program. A pretrial diversion program is a conditional discharge. In other words, the condition is that if you do this program, then your case will be dismissed. You should talk to your attorney about any pretrial diversion programs that are available.
First Offender Statutes
Many states have statutes specifically for 1st offenders. These statutes provide a mechanism for keeping a felony off your record.
In Georgia, there are actually two statutes, a 1st Offender statute (O.C.G.A. 42-8-60) and a Drug 1st Offender statute (O.C.G.A. 16-13-2). To see an example of Georgia's 1st offender statute, go here and click "ok." Then go to Title 42, Chapter 8, Article 3.
You should talk to your attorney about any 1st offender statutes your state has.
Reducing the Felony to a Misdemeanor
There may be a way for your attorney to convince the prosecutor to reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor charge. Let the attorney work on any legal angles there might be for convincing the prosecutor. Sometimes the fact that you have no record may be enough. You should talk to your attorney about whether a reduction could be an option in your case.
The Under the Table Deal
Certain defense attorneys (especially public defenders) have special relationships with their prosecutors. Because pretrial diversion programs or 1st offender statutes have stringent requirements, the defense attorney and the prosecutor will come to an agreement that if the defendant does X,Y, and Z, then I (the prosecutor) will dismiss the case. You can facilitate this agreement by providing your attorney with the following:
- If there is restitution to be paid to the victims, get a money order ready.
- If you are working, get a letter from your employer stating how long you have been working and that you are a good employee.
- Have family members come to your court date so that the prosecutor can talk to them and find out that you are not a horrible person.
- Go do some community service and bring a signed letter back saying that you did it and what you did.
- Anything else you think would make you look good.
The four options I have listed are not the only options available. Each state, county, and court is different. It is very important to talk to your attorney about how to keep your felony off your record. The four options listed are simply starter points to get the conversation going.