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Examining options for first-time offenders

If you have been following our blog, you know that maintaining a clean criminal record is important if you are concerned about your future employment, educational opportunities and housing preferences. Basically, the three items on this list can impact all aspects of your life. Unfortunately, it's not only the presence of felonies that can limit your options. Having misdemeanors on your file can also restrict your freedom of choice.

Of course, you may not have been thinking of the long-term implications of your actions when you were arrested for a drug or alcohol crime. If your mistake was a first-time offense, you may benefit from one of several first-time offender programs. In North Carolina, these court-mandated plans exist in order to help individuals avoid the stain of criminal behavior on their records. Is it possible that you could qualify for a dismissal of the charges? Take a look at this list to see if you could benefit from a first-time offender course:

1. Qualifying characteristics

As has been mentioned, those with a clean record can participate in the program. Previous infractions, such as receiving parking tickets, rarely influence your status as a first-time offender. If you have had past convictions expunged, however, you will not qualify for a deferral of charges.

2. Program requirements
Upon entering an agreement with the court, you will be placed on probation with the charges postponed. While the guidelines of the program vary throughout the state, first-time offenders typically need to pay a fine, complete community service and attend counseling. If you think that the financial penalty associated with this program is steep, you may want to research the fees associated with defending a case in court. The financial commitment you will make as a first-time offender is far less, even when you include payment drug or alcohol counseling. As the program options and requirements differ throughout the state, it may be helpful to consult a lawyer to ensure that you have the best options for your situation.

3. End result

When you successfully complete the conditions of your program and avoid getting into trouble, the court will waive the charges. It is possible that the record of this crime can be expunged.

Worried your one-time mistake will remain with you for the rest of your life? For those qualifying for the first-time offender program, this singular lapse in judgment can be left in the past.

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