Retroactive First Offender: A Real Second Chance for First Offenders
Somewhat recently, Georgia Legislature approved Georgia Code 42-8-66, also known as the Retroactive First Offender Statute. In order to understand Retroactive First Offender, we first need to understand the First Offender Act. The First Offender Act is a unique opportunity afforded to those who are in trouble for the first time. If you are sentenced as a First Offender and successfully complete your sentence, you will not have a conviction and the record of the case will be sealed from your official criminal history report. The intent of the law is to give first time offenders a chance to learn from their mistake and move on with their lives without the burden of a conviction.
Some people are not aware of the First Offender Act at the time that they are sentenced. The Retroactive First Offender Statute is specifically for these individuals. Those who plead guilty to a felony, but did not use the First Offender Act, can now seek to have First Offender Status applied to their case after the fact. This retroactive application allows these individuals to benefit from the First Offender Act even years after a conviction has remained on their record.
Retroactive First Offender: Requirements
There is a catch, as not everyone is eligible for the Retroactive First Offenders Statute. First and foremost, an individual must have completed their sentence entirely with no issues or mistakes, such as probation violations or new arrests. An individual who is still serving probation for their sentence will not be eligible until the probation is complete.
The next requirement is to get the prosecutor of the county where the conviction originated to agree to the petition for your Retroactive First Offender Status. The statute requires that the prosecutor consent to your petition requesting the retroactive application. Once the prosecutor agrees, the next hurdle is your judge.
At this point your attorney should be preparing the motion requesting Retroactive First Offender Status and scheduling your hearing with your judge. The hearing will be your opportunity to provide any evidence that you, your attorney, or the prosecutor have showing that you were not aware of First Offender Status at the time of your sentence. Other evidence that can be beneficial would be character witnesses that would vouch for your good character. The judge is tasked at the hearing of confirming that you would have qualified for First Offender Status at the time of the original sentence. General qualification is you must have never been convicted of a felony prior to your sentence. The felony must also not be a serious violent felony or another prohibited felony per the statute.
The judge will weigh all evidence, your character, and how well you did in completing your sentence when they come to a decision. The decision will depend greatly on the quality of this evidence. But those who are granted Retroactive First Offender Status will gain significant benefit in their lives. First Offender Status will help them qualify for better jobs, better housing, and many other significant quality of life improvements.
Retroactive First Offender: Final Thoughts
Seeking Retroactive First Offender Status for those who are eligible can have massive benefit. The qualifications and criteria are steep, but the payout is priceless. The opportunity to seek more meaningful employment, get back stripped rights, gain better housing, and countless other advantages make it well worth it.
Those who completed their sentence without issue will be most eligible, but those currently serving a sentence who will qualify in the future should strive to complete their sentence without issue so that they can seek Retroactive First Offender upon completion. We look forward to working with you.