You have never been charged with a crime. However, you now face a first-time criminal charge-and you feel terrified. You know that a conviction on your criminal record could harm your job prospects, housing options and personal reputation for years to come.

All your life, you obeyed law enforcement. Why should one criminal offense destroy your entire future?

Fortunately, North Carolina is sympathetic to law-abiding citizens who have made one bad choice. The state has several First Offender Programs designed to give first-time criminal offenders disciplinary options aside from jail time.

At Marcilliat & Mills PLLC, we work with many first offenders to defend their rights and help them obtain the most beneficial sentence possible.

If you are facing a first criminal charge, read on to learn more about our state’s First Offender Programs.

What Is A First Offenders Program?

First Offender Programs are diversionary programs that offer alternative sentences to first-time misdemeanor or felony perpetrators. These programs give a second chance to people who do not have a prior criminal record. The law recognized that convicting someone of a crime when they are unlikely to re-offend can damage their life permanently. So, in some situations, it offers alternative sentencing focused on rehabilitation.

Not every first-time criminal offense has the option of diversionary programs. Typically, First Offender Programs are available only for misdemeanor domestic violence, property crimes and drug crimes, though some felony offenses may qualify.

Offenders must fulfill several criteria to complete the program. Depending on the specific program, these requirements could include:

  • Admitting guilt to the offense in court
  • Attending drug/alcohol education or treatment
  • Paying a fine
  • Enrolling in school, staying in school or maintaining a job
  • Submitting to random drug tests
  • Accepting other conditions of probation

If a defendant successfully meets these requirements, the district attorney’s office will dismiss the case.

Do you have questions about First Offender Programs or other questions about charges? Contact Marcilliat & Mills PLLC, and we can answer your questions in a consultation.

First Offenders Program In North Carolina For Domestic Violence

North Carolina’s domestic violence laws are fairly broad. They cover physical assault, verbal threats, and threatening actions toward an intimate partner, household member, child, or another family member. A conviction for domestic violence or another form of abuse could affect not only your future but the future of your family. Even if you are not convicted, the charges on your criminal record could be visible to potential employers, landlords, and educational institutions. And you could face a protective order ( restraining order) that interferes with your life in a big way.

Frequently, the other party in an alleged domestic violence incident does not wish to press charges against the defendant. However, law enforcement does not always consider the wishes of the alleged victim. They may still make an arrest and press charges. Fortunately, the district attorney’s office is often willing to work with many first-time offenders to put them in diversionary sentencing programs.

The state’s purpose for first-time domestic violence offenders is offender deterrence. The court hopes that alternative sentencing such as probation, community service, or anger management classes can prevent offenders from repeating incidents of domestic violence. Then, the offender can seek to remove the offense from his or her permanent record and move on with life.

First Offenders Program In North Carolina For Property Crimes

First Offenders Programs are also available to people charged with property crimes. These offenses are often without any forethought or malice, but their consequences can last a lifetime.

You may be eligible for a diversionary program if you have been charged with a misdemeanor property crime such as:

  • Theft
  • Criminal mischief
  • Criminal trespass
  • Shoplifting
  • Disorderly conduct

What Is Structured Sentencing?

When sentencing property crimes, North Carolina courts follow a set of guidelines known as structured sentencing. This ensures that the court issues a fair sentence based on your past record. When it comes to first offenders, the court may offer an alternative sentence. This helps reduce the state’s prison population and gives perpetrators a second chance to prove themselves law-abiding citizens.

Diversionary Programs For Juveniles

If you are the parent of a minor whom the state has charged with a property crime, you probably feel gripped with anxiety. Juveniles under the age of 18 are some of the most common perpetrators of property crimes. Teenagers do not always understand the severe implications of a night of mischief.

One bad decision should not jeopardize your child’s permanent record.

The criminal justice system tries to focus on rehabilitation for juvenile delinquents. By entering a diversionary program, your child could complete alternative sentencing, avoid juvenile detention and keep a clean criminal record.

First Offenders Program In North Carolina For Drug Offenses

The public perception of drug-related crime is changing rapidly. The state now understands that many drug charges arise from addiction, not malevolence. Instead of penalizing crimes such as simple possession of marijuana with jail time, many courts now offer the offender a chance at rehabilitation. First offender programs for drug activity almost always require a drug education school or a stint in rehab.

What Is The 90-96 Program?

North Carolina’s conditional discharge program for drug crimes is called the 90-96 program (named for its location in the North Carolina General Statutes). In this program, you can avoid jail time by accepting probation. If you meet the terms and conditions of probation, then the court will dismiss your charges.

First Offenders Program In North Carolina For Low-Level Felonies and Misdemeanors

Under N.C.G.S. § 15A-1341(a4), you can avoid a conviction by being placed on conditional discharge probation. This occurs only when there is a joint motion by both the defendant and the prosecutor. If you meet all of the terms and conditions of probation, the court will dismiss your charges. Additionally, after your charges are dismissed, you may qualify to have the offense removed from your criminal record. To qualify for this type of conditional discharge, the court must find:

  • You plead guilty or were found guilty of any Class H or I felony or a misdemeanor (other than impaired driving).
  • Each known victim has been notified and given an opportunity to be heard.
  • You have never been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.
  • You have never been placed on probation.
  • You are unlikely to commit another offense other than a Class 3 misdemeanor.

How To Know If A First Offenders Program Is Right For You

Because this is your first encounter with the law, you may have the opportunity to enter a First Offenders program, if you are eligible. You must meet a few requirements to qualify for these programs. While every charge and program has slightly different eligibility requirements, they do share a few in common:

  • You must have no prior convictions of any kind
  • You must have no other pending charges
  • You must not be enrolled in any other diversionary programs
  • You must admit guilt to certain charges against you

There are several benefits to First Offenders programs. They allow you to avoid jail or other severe penalties. Instead, you can accept alternative sentencing like probation, substance abuse treatment, community service and regular drug testing.

Additionally, the district attorney’s office will dismiss your charges as long as you meet the conditions of your program.

How We Can Help

Marcilliat & Mills PLLC, assists clients with many different criminal defense matters, whether they involve a first offense or several repeat offenses. With decades of experience – including experience as a former North Carolina prosecutor – our lawyers can provide strong representation to defend your innocence or help you enter a First Offender Program.

When you schedule a consultation with our law firm, we can evaluate your case and plot a course of action. Learn more by calling 919-838-6643. We have offices across North Carolina and handle all types of criminal charges – misdemeanors and felonies, first-time offenses, and repeat – statewide.

State v. B.S.: Not Guilty Verdict in First Degree Murder Case.

In this case, our client was charged with First Degree Murder in connection with a “drive-by” shooting that occurred in Charlotte, NC. The State’s evidence included GPS ankle monitoring data linking our client was at the scene of the crime and evidence that our client confessed to an inmate while in jail. Nonetheless, we convinced a jury to unanimously find our client Not Guilty. He was released from jail the same day.

State v. S.G.: First Degree Murder Charge Dismissed.

Our client was charged with First Degree for the shooting death related to alleged breaking and entering. The State’s evidence included a co-defendant alleging that our client was the shooter. After conducting a thorough investigation with the use of a private investigator, we persuaded the State to dismiss entirely the case against our client.

State v. B.D.: First Degree Murder Charged Dismissed.

After conducting an investigation and communicating with the prosecutor about the facts and circumstances indicating that our client acted in self-defense, the case was dismissed and deemed a justifiable homicide.

State v. I.R.: Reduction from First Degree Murder to Involuntary Manslaughter and Concealment of Death.

Our client was charged with the First Degree Murder of a young lady by drug overdose. After investigating the decedent’s background and hiring a preeminent expert toxicologist to fight the State’s theory of death, we were able to negotiate this case down from Life in prison to 5 years in prison, with credit for time served.

State v. J.G.:

Our client was charged with First Degree Murder related to a “drug deal gone bad.” After engaging the services of a private investigator and noting issues with the State’s case, we were able to negotiate a plea for our client that avoided a Life sentence and required him to serve only 12 years.