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First Time Offenders

If you have been arrested for the first time, you may be looking for potential leniency. After all, you're not a criminal, and you have the record to prove it. You may have just made one mistake. You may not have even known you were breaking the law.

There are special programs for many first time offenders in Palm Beach County and in other jurisdictions in South Florida. However, you will not be automatically admitted into these programs just because you have clean record. Some of them can be very difficult to get into.

West Palm Beach Lawyer for First-Time Offenders

A skilled West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable about these matters can help identify for which programs for first-time offenders you qualify, and can negotiate with prosecutors and speak to judges on your behalf to help secure your admission. An experienced attorney can also advise you when to skip the programs and argue for acquittal in court.

At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we have more than two decades collective experience. It may be your first time in a criminal courtroom, but it's definitely not ours. Your case will never be handled by an associate fresh out of law school.

All of our associates are seasoned and possess the experience and skill to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. The partners are available to you 24 hours per day, seven days per week and are always involved in the strategy and outcome of your case.

Call us today at (561) 283-3259 to set up a consultation. We represent clients in courts in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, including people arrested in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Greenacres, Royal Palm Beach, Jupiter, Juno Beach, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens and Belle Glade.


First-Time Offender Information Center


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Common First Offenses in Florida

The number of offenses that a person can be charged with under Florida law is limited only by the number of offenses in Florida Statutes. However, there are some offenses that are certainly more common than others for first offenders. Some of those include:

  • Drunk Driving / DUI
  • Reckless Driving
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance
  • Possession of Marijuana (Felony or Misdemeanor)
  • Petit Theft
  • Criminal Mischief
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol

For the most part, these offenses are misdemeanors. However, even a second degree misdemeanor can have serious consequences, including a permanent record and even jail time. The state attorney is under no obligation to "go easy" on a first-time offender, and simply pleading guilty is no guarantee that you will not serve jail time.


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Pretrial Diversion in Palm Beach County

The state attorney's office has a tremendous caseload, however, and prosecutors there wish to take any opportunity to make the process more efficient. While an unrepresented defendant is easy prey, they may negotiate with someone represented by a seasoned defense attorney.

For a first-time offender, prosecutors may be willing to offer pretrial diversion. Under pretrial diversion, the defendant may or may not enter a guilty plea. He or she then completes probation (through pre-trial services) along with other terms negotiated between the state attorney and defense lawyer. These may include community service, fines, counseling, education or other steps.

If the terms are completed, the charges are may be dropped. A conviction is not entered, and the records may be sealed or expunged. If the defendant fails to keep the terms, the conviction is entered, and the maximum punishment may be sentenced. The program is for non-violent offenses.

At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we will advise you whether pretrial intervention is a good idea for you. It may be better to fight the charges and not have to deal with the terms or a guilty plea. The choice is yours, but with Meltzer & Bell, P.A., it will be a fully informed choice.


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Drug Court in Palm Beach County

Drug Court is an important diversion program in Palm Beach County. It is for people charged with possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia who do not have a record with any crimes of violence. You do not have to be a first-time offender to be eligible for Drug Court.

Drug Court usually lasts one year, but can be extended if the defendant has trouble meeting the goals. The terms include intensive rehabilitation programs and random drug testing.


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First DUI Charges

People facing DUI charges are not eligible for diversion programs in Palm Beach County. However, as of 2013, they may seek a reduction in charges for a first DUI under very unique and specific circumstances.

Upon the prosecutor's approval, they may plead guilty to reckless driving with alcohol as a significant factor instead of DUI if they meet a number of other conditions, including a lengthy period of probation, DUI school, treatment programs, community service, vehicle immobilization, an ignition interlock and other terms.

You are not automatically eligible for this reduction — in fact, the program is hard to get into. There are a number of exclusions, including have a BAC above .20, being involved in a crash, having a negative pattern on your driving pattern, or simply because the prosecutor does not think it appropriate.

Do not simply think you will be able to get a reduced plea for drunk driving. Have an experienced defense attorney negotiate it for you.


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Resources for First-Time Offenders in South Florida

Palm Beach County Drug Court: This court allows drug offenders, including first-time drug offenders an alternative program to harsh sentencing, and may allow for a person facing possession charges to escape a conviction.  


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Finding an Attorney For Your First Arrest in South Florida

If you are a first-time offender, never assume that you will get a light sentence. You have never been in a criminal court, and may wind up with a much harsher sentence. Have someone with experienced on your side. Contact a West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer from Meltzer & Bell, P.A. to fight for you and seek the best possible result. Call today at (561) 283-3259 to set up a free consultation.

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Client Testimonials for Meltzer & Bell, P.A.
Client Testimonials
  • ...A long weekend vacation in Palm Beach resulted in the potential for serious consequences that could have set me back in unimaginative ways. M+B was a truly incredible legal advocate and was always accessible within minutes to answer questions and discuss the progress of the case within the system - truly remarkable. I could not have retained better legal representation in my case in Palm Beach County.

    Anonymous
  • I just had to commend you on the outstanding job you did on behalf of your client in court yesterday. If my clients were ever to ask me if I know of a good DUI defense attorney, I know to whom I can refer them!

    A.A.
  • I was facing hard prison time and punishment. [Larry] did everything to pull strings and get me into rehab. After meeting with many therapists I finally got one to diagnose me successfully with Bipolar. Thanks to Larry I have been sober since 6/19/09. My health is great and my family life is amazing. It's because he saw something in me and my family that I wasn't just an alcoholic there was something that told me it was something else.

    A.P.
  • I was charged with a felony and facing the scary thought of losing my job, but thank you Attorney Steven Bell for helping me. Now I’m able to keep my job and take care of my family. I am truly amazed by your service, and you for understanding what I have to deal with. To me I’m very impressed by way you handled my case and was here to listen and make things OK!

    Y.E.
  • Mr. Steven Bell, Words cant explain how thankful I am for you and your firm. I was facing felony charges and even looking at doing 5 years in jail! Not only did you fight for me, you got my case dismissed and dropped. For that, I don't have words to say “thank you” you were always kind and believed in me. You looked for every opportunity and you won! Thank you for being my guardian angel in disguise and steering me in the right direction. You are forever my “too go guy” thank you soooo much!

    A.L.
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