Your Guide to the Georgia First Offender Act and Firearms Possession
Speak with a trusted Georgia First Offender Act and Firearms Possession lawyer.
The rules around owning or using a firearm after a criminal offense are complicated. Get the facts on the Georgia First Offender Act and firearms to stay out of trouble.
Author: Philip Kim, Founder, Philip Kim Law, P.C.
Defense lawyer Philip Kim has committed his career to standing up for the accused, and protecting the rights and reputations of his valued clients. If you face criminal charges in Georgia, we can provide you with the skilled, effective defense representation you need.
Published on September 05, 2020, last updated on September 18, 2020.
Understanding the Georgia First Offender Act and Firearms
Often, people who make mistakes and face legal penalties are willing to take responsibility for their actions and prove they are likely not to re-offend. The Georgia legal system has recognized this and provides first-time offenders with programs to benefit them.
There are several programs that could result in charges getting dismissed, allowing offenders to maintain a clean record. One of these programs is the First Offender Act. With the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney, first offenders may be able to mitigate many of the penalties that come with a criminal conviction, but this advantage is not without its own consequences, including restricted gun rights.
If you have been charged with a crime in Georgia and are interested in exploring your legal options, including being sentenced under the First Offender Act, please contact Philip Kim Law today at (678) 273-3500 for a free consultation. Standing among the top criminal defense lawyers in Metro Atlanta, Mr. Kim will inform you of your rights, guide you through your options, and help you understand the link between the Georgia First Offender Act and firearms possession.
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Georgia First Offender Act Overview
Georgia’s First Offender Act allows for some first-time offenders to plea guilty or no contests to certain crimes and avoid conviction. You may only be sentenced under the First Offender Act once in your lifetime.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation states the following: “Per Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60), ‘upon a verdict or plea of guilty or nolo contendere, but before adjudication of guilt, the court may, in the case of a defendant who has not been previously convicted of a felony, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant, defer further proceeding and place the defendant on probation as a first offender.’”
If the probationer is discharged following a successful first offender sentence, the charges will be sealed on the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) database, but the information may be available on other sources like court docket books, criminal justice agency websites, and third-party vendors. It is required that GCIC receives official proof that the offender has successfully completed the First Offender Act requirements. The record will not be sealed otherwise, even with the passage of time, but your attorney can help you with this.
Georgia law mandates that GCIC change the sentence to a conviction if the person is arrested or convicted of another offense while still on probation for the first offense, or if the person had previously had First Offender Act treatment. Also, courts may give the FOA sentence if they feel the completion of the program was unsatisfactory or they feel the offender should have a guilty adjudication. Further, Georgia law is clear about which offenses disqualify a person for employment and this information will be given to prospective employers.
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Georgia First Offender Act Rules
If sentenced under Georgia’s First Offender Act, following the successful completion of your sentence, the charges will be sealed from your criminal history.
Here is a brief overview of the First Offender Act process:
- You or your attorney must ask for you to be sentenced under the First Offender Act.
- The judge decides to sentence you as a First Offender upon speaking with your attorney and the prosecutor. If he or she denies the request, it cannot be appealed and is final.
- If it is decided you are a First Offender, you will be sentenced as such. “First Offender Act” will go on your official criminal history.
- If there is a violation of the terms like committing another crime, the judge will revoke your status and you will be convicted and may face the maximum punishment for the offense(s).
- Upon successful completion of your probation, an Order of Discharge will be requested by the probation officer.
- The order will be issued by the judge and filed with the court.
- The Clerk of Court will enter it onto your official Georgia criminal history record and then the record of the case will be sealed from most employers.
- Obtain a copy of your GCIC record to ensure the First Offender case no longer appears.
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What is Possession of a Firearm?
When discussing the possession of firearms for those under the First Offender Act, it is important to know the basics. Namely, a firearm constitutes any handgun, shotgun, rifle, or other weapons that can expel a projectile by explosion or electrical charge.
State laws throughout the United States restrict the possession of a firearm for a convicted felon, including those sentenced under the First Offender Act. However, several defenses are available to those charged with illegal possession of a firearm, including arguing against the prosecution’s claim of “knowing possession”.
A skilled criminal defense lawyer can assist with this and other aspects of your First Offender case, but it’s still important to stay informed on your gun rights as a Georgia First Offender to ensure that you maintain the privileges that have been granted to you under this statute.
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Georgia First Offender Gun Rights
In the state of Georgia, a person who is on probation as a first offender is prohibited from receiving, transporting, or possessing any firearm. Anyone who violates this will have committed a felony punishable by a prison term of up to ten years. A second conviction will result in a sentence between five and ten years. However, if the offender has previously been convicted of or on probation for a forcible felony, they will face a prison sentence of five years.
A person who cannot possess a firearm due to a forcible felony, is on probation as a first offender, or is under conditional discharge for a forcible felony and attempts to purchase or obtain the transfer of a firearm will face a felony charge and up to five years in prison. A second conviction will be punished by a prison term no less than five years and up to ten years.
What is a Forcible Felony?
The term “forcible felony” is used to define any felony where violence or physical force was used. This can include murder, burglary, robbery, home invasion, kidnapping, hijacking, stalking, rape, molestation, sexual battery, arson, and so on.
There are a few exceptions where people convicted of a felony may possess a firearm. The first is if the offender has been pardoned of the felony. The second is the person would not present a threat to Georgia citizens.
A conviction for the possession of a firearm during the attempt to commit a crime will be treated as a felony punishable by five years in prison. For a second conviction, the offender would face a ten-year prison sentence. They may also face charges for the underlying crime, which will be a separate offense.
Having a felony on your record can make life difficult, especially when it comes to getting a job. Therefore, offenders should speak with an experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney for legal advice and advocacy. When your future and freedom are at stake, do not waste time in finding an attorney who can help you navigate the law and come out on top. Contact Philip Kim Law today to schedule a free consultation.
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