Former Prosecutor's Tips: First-Time Offenders
The following information may be helpful for first-time offenders.
IntroductionIf you are charged with a criminal offense for the first time, the experience can seem daunting. You may be concerned about questions such as the following. What impact will this have on my status at school or on my ability to get into college or graduate school? Will this affect my ability to participate in sports and other activities? What impact will this have on my job or on my ability to get a job? Can I still pursue a career as a lawyer, doctor, teacher, etc.?
Information to ConsiderThese are all important questions and the answers will depend, in part, on the nature of the offense and the facts of each case. Obviously, you want to seek the best possible outcome. Individuals charged with relatively minor offenses such as underage possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanor larceny/shoplifting, and driving after consuming alcohol under age 21 (i.e. not a DWI) should consider the following and discuss options with their attorney.
o Remain polite and cooperative with the charging officer throughout the arrest/citation process. Respectful behavior can only help once the case proceeds to court.
o Inquire about the opportunity to participate in a deferred prosecution or other diversion program with the local District Attorney's Office. (Prior traffic violations likely would not prevent one from having the chance to participate in a deferred prosecution or other diversion program.) Depending on the type of offense and the county, the terms of the program will differ.
In general, offenders may be required to complete community service hours and/or substance abuse/alcohol classes, pay fees, and stay out of trouble. The length of the deferred prosecution/diversion program might vary but would likely be for 6 months or 1 year. Individuals who live in one NC county (or a state outside NC) but committed an offense in another NC county can attempt to work with the prosecutor handling the case or the diversion program coordinator to determine options. If the offender successfully completes the program, the prosecutor will hopefully dismiss the charge.
o For more serious cases (e.g. low-level felony cases), talk with your attorney about whether a deferred prosecution might still be an option. If not (and you intend to accept responsibility), then the goal would be to enter a plea to a misdemeanor offense rather than a felony offense.
o See my prior guide on court preparation.
o At some point after the criminal case is resolved, first-time offenders should determine whether they are eligible for an expungement of the case from their criminal record.
DisclaimerThe information included in this Guide is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and, therefore, does not create an attorney/client relationship with anyone.