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. Some of these programs are called diversion programs which result in the charges being dropped entirely or at least reduced to a less serious offense. 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.
Lawyer for First-Time Offenders in West Palm Beach, FL
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) 557-8686 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
- Common First Offenses in Florida
- Pretrial Diversion in Palm Beach County
- Drug Court in Palm Beach County
- First DUI Charges
- Resources for First-Time Offenders in South Florida
- Finding the Best Attorney For Your First Arrest in South 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.
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.
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.
After a first DUI, many people are eligible for a DUI diversion program in Palm Beach County, FL. Entering the program means your DUI will be reduced to reckless driving with a withhold of adjudication. In exchange for getting the reduction, you must complete enhanced santions 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 child passenger or pet in the vehicle at the time of the stop;
- having a first offense on your record;
- not having a valid driver’s license at the time of the offense;
- 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.
Palm Beach County Drug Court: Drug Court helps people accused of drug offenses obtain treatment and find an alternative to the harsh sentencing options that might otherwise occur. In many cases, by entering drug court, a person is able to avoid a conviction and might be eligible to seal the record entirely.
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) 557-8686 to set up a free consultation.
This article was last updated on Friday, March 30, 2018.