As a Miami criminal defense attorney, I am often approached by first-time offenders. Whether a felony or misdemeanor charge, these clients are different than clients who may have been arrested before. First-time offenders are understandably frightened and fear penalties such as convictions on their records, hefty fines, and worse - jail or prison time.
Options For First-Time Offenders
Posted By Eric Matheny
Clients who are facing their first trip through the criminal justice system should go with a criminal lawyer who is patient and will take the time to explain the details of their charge, and the possible resolutions. Too often I see attorneys speaking to their clients in court as if this is the first time the two are having a serious conversation.
That's not the way I practice. Every one of my clients has my personal cell phone number and can call me anytime of the day. Many of my first-time offender clients just call to chat about how they feel, expressing to me the fear and anxiety they are experiencing.
While I cannot wave a magic wand and make everything okay, I can usually shed some light on what they don't understand about their charges. And in the end, isn't that what everyone is afraid of? The unknown? While still enduring the discomfort of having an open criminal case, I find that this type of personal attention really makes my clients feel more at ease.
As a first-time offender, there may be options available that could leave you with no criminal record. Both County Court and Circuit Court, where misdemeanors and felonies are handled respectively, have Pretrial Intervention programs. In County Court, the program is called Pretrial Diversion, or PTD, and in Circuit Court, the program is called Pretrial Intervention, or PTI. These programs permit an accused person to divert the prosecution of their case so that they may complete conditions set by the Assistant State Attorney handling the case. Those conditions may include community service hours, completion of anger management or some other class, or payment of a fine or restitution. There may be other conditions as well, but these three I have mentioned are the most common.
The benefit of PTD/PTI is that the client never pleads guilty or no contest to the charges. There is no probation. PTD/PTI is not a sentence handed down by the Court. It is a program permitted by the State. And the greatest benefit of all is that once the client has completed the program successfully, the State announces a "nolle prosse," or a formal dismissal of the criminal charges.
This does, however, leave an arrest on your record. I often include the expungement of a client's criminal record as part of my service. That way, when the case is dismissed by the State, I am able to facilitate the process of getting my client's record clean so that nobody will ever know they were even arrested! Talk about a second chance.
If you are a first-time offender, I understand how you feel. It is terrifying being arrested and subjected to the criminal justice system. If this is your first time dealing with a criminal case, call my office today.