When a person is arrested and charged with a crime for the first time, he or she might be confused and even overwhelmed when thinking of the next step. There often are concerns about what penalties they will face, how they can build a defense against the charges and what is the best approach when dealing with the criminal justice system. The process can be intimidating, but a skilled criminal defense attorney can help you fight to avoid a conviction.
St. Petersburg First-Time Offender Defense Attorney
Morris Law Firm, P.A. represents many clients who are first-time offenders with no prior record. We understand this is a very stressful and uncomfortable situation for you and your loved ones. People may lose sleep wondering what the criminal justice system has in store for them. Keep in mind your lack of a criminal record can work to your advantage.
Morris Law Firm, P.A. has handled numerous cases for individuals arrested in Pinellas County and the surrounding areas. The majority of cases result in dismissal, reduction in charges or pre-trial intervention. This depends on the nature and circumstance of your criminal offense and the number of offenses for which you are charged.
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime for the first time in the greater Tampa Bay area, contact Morris Law Firm, P.A.. We represent clients throughout St. Petersburg, Clearwater and other cities in Pinellas County, Manatee County, and Sarasota County. Call (727) 388-4736 to schedule a free consultation.
Information for First-Time Offenders
- Common Crimes Committed by First-Time Offenders
- DUI and Drug Offenders
- Traffic Violations and Corresponding Points
- First-Time Juvenile Offenders
- Pre-trial Intervention and Plea Bargaining
- Sealing or Expungement of First Offenses
- Additional Resources
Most often, first-time offenders commit misdemeanor crimes that do not carry severe penalties. However, sometimes a person with a clean criminal record can make a poor choice and find themselves facing a felony offense. For example, a first-time offender still could be charged DUI manslaughter, which is a felony offense.
Some of the most common crimes committed by first-time offenders include:
- Marijuana possession
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal trespass
- Prostitution and solicitation
- Public intoxication
- Domestic violence
- Reckless driving
- Driving while license suspended
DUI and drug offenses can carry some of the harshest penalties in Florida, even for a first-time offender. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence or a related DUI charge, it is important you understand the consequences of the offense.
A DUI arrest is often a person’s introduction into the complex criminal justice system. The experience is perplexing, and many people simply give up, thinking if they plead guilty to drunk driving their problems will go away sooner. People become intimidated by the system and try to handle the offense on their own. However, a DUI defense lawyer can help you.
As with drunk driving cases, those who face drug charges sometimes see an arrest as an automatic conviction. They may think the evidence against them is too serious. Drug charges, even for a first offense, often could mean jail time, so these charges should be taken seriously.
Any conviction for a drug offense can consist of far-reaching consequences, including:
- Negatively affecting social life and reputation
- Difficulty finding employment, joining the military or enrolling in a university
- Prohibition from schools or recreational activities
- Ineligibility to have your record sealed
- Mandatory two-year driver’s license suspension
In Florida, driving is not considered a right, but instead a privilege. Driving privileges may be jeopardized for various traffic violations and unlawful criminal offenses. Incurring too many “violation points” is one way to lose driving privileges.
General traffic offenses have assigned point values and are recorded on every occasion you are ticketed. Points stay associated to your driver’s license for three years.
Top Point Values
The following infractions will result in six points against your license:
- Leaving the scene of an accident with damage of at least $50
- Speed violations resulting in an accident
These infractions will earn you four points:
- Driving recklessly
- Moving violations that cause an accident
- Attempting to pass a school bus that has stopped
- Exceeding the posted speed limit by 16 mph or more
- Ignoring traffic control signals or devices
Three-point infractions include:
- Minors driving during restricted hours
- Exceeding the posted speed limit by 15 mph or less
- All other moving violations not previously mentioned
- Curfew violations
- Driving with an open container
- Violating child restraint regulations
Florida law states that juveniles younger than 17 years old are prohibited from driving between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless they are accompanied by a licensed driver 21 years old or older, or unless the minor is going to or from work. Motorists 17 years old are subject to the same driving restrictions from the hours of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Top Point Maximums
Your license may be suspended if you incur the following points:
- 12 pts within a 12-month period — 30-day suspension
- 18 pts within an 18-month period — 3-month suspension
- 24 pts within a 36-month period —1-year suspension
The law is more strict with cases involving juveniles; if you accumulate only six points in a year, your license will be limited to “business purposes only” for a year. Accumulating more than six points in that same time period will result in a 90-day extension of your license restrictions.
Points are given on the date the offense occurs. Driving out of state doesn’t help, either; you’ll accrue the same amount of points on your Florida license for convictions in any state or federal court.
An arrest can be a frightening experience for a minor, as well as his or her parents or guardians. Juvenile offenses require a distinct approach and having an experienced St. Petersburg juvenile lawyer who understands the nuances of juvenile law can make a big difference in your child’s future.
Having an attorney involved in your child’s case from the beginning could mean a solid opportunity to either get your child’s charges dropped or have your child enrolled in a diversion program. If the program is successfully completed, this could result in the charges being dismissed.
As adults, juvenile criminal records can be sealed or expunged. However, expungement is not always necessary. Juvenile records typically are not available to the public.
Pre-trial intervention is a program run by the local State Attorney’s Office that typically is offered to first-time offenders in misdemeanor and simple, non-violent, third-degree felony cases. Morris Law Firm, P.A. is extremely effective in enrolling clients in the pre-trial intervention or pre-trial diversion programs.
When a person enrolls in the program, he or she will be required to complete certain conditions, such as community service hours, drug testing, anger management classes or paying restitution, depending on the offense. If the program is completed, the state will dismiss all charges against the offender.
This program is valuable to first-time offenders. If you are eligible, our criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg can help you then work to seal or expunge your criminal record, so public record or background checks will not show you were ever arrested.
Morris Law Firm, P.A. also can negotiate on your behalf during plea bargaining to help you receive a Withhold of Adjudication, meaning there is no formal conviction of guilt on your criminal record. It is imperative to receive a Withhold of Adjudication for two reasons:
- If you are charged with a felony offense, this will prevent you from being considered a convicted felon and losing the majority of your civil liberties, such as being able to own a firearm
- A Withhold of Adjudication may entitle you to seal your criminal record after your case is closed or have the criminal record expunged
Morris Law Firm, P.A. is experienced in helping clients through sealing and expunging Florida criminal records. This means past arrests or convictions do not appear on criminal background checks. This is critical when applying for jobs, searching for housing or even applying to colleges and universities. Sealing or expunging your criminal record is a low-cost investment in your future. Some of the benefits of working with Morris Law Firm, P.A. include:
- No office visit required
- Flat fee for sealing or expunging your criminal record
- Simple Process: Take the fingerprint card we send you and get fingerprinted at any local police station. Have two documents we send you notarized. Send the fingerprint card and the two documents back to us and Morris Law Firm, P.A. will take care of the rest
Juvenile Division Special Programs — The Sixth Judicial Circuit provides diversion programs for juveniles, including those who are first-time offenders. These programs can be a way to avoid a criminal record and heavy penalties for juveniles.
Adult Drug Court Program — The program is a court-supervised, comprehensive drug treatment court for eligible non-violent defendants. The voluntary program involves numerous appearances before the judge, substance abuse treatment and frequent, random testing for substance abuse.
Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida — The Sixth Judicial Circuit serves citizens of Pasco and Pinellas counties. The circuit is comprised of two county courts, which have jurisdiction only in their home county, and a circuit court, with jurisdiction in both counties.
Finding A Lawyer for First-Time Offenders in Pinellas County
If you are facing charges for the first time, Morris Law Firm, P.A. can make a difference in your case. Our attorneys have been successful in meeting with prosecutors prior to the formal filing of charges. We can begin work on your case immediately so we can intervene and convince the prosecution your offense is a one-time event and present evidence on your behalf. Without early intervention, the prosecution will likely file the charges for which you were arrested by the police. Call (727) 388-4736 today.