Have you been arrested for the first time in Austin, Texas? You are likely worried about what's in store for you and must be anxious for your court date. If convicted of whatever crime it is you allegedly committed, you could face jail, fines, community service, among other requirements and penalties that would make up your sentencing order. It's scary -- but an experienced, resourceful criminal defense attorney can guide you through the process, help you find alternatives to jail, and help you avoid a criminal record.
Jason English, an established criminal defense lawyer in Austin, understands how difficult and stressful a first-time offense can be. He is here to fight for your rights and freedom and pursue the best outcome in your unique situation.
Options for First-Time Offenders in Austin, TX
First-time offenders in Texas may be able to avoid serving time in jail through participation in first-time offender programs. First-time offender programs are meant to help rehabilitate offenders, prevent recidivism, and reduce overcrowding in jails. These programs generally require that participants agree to drug testing and participation in classes, treatment, or probation. Qualifying for a program is often dependent on the crime and its classification as a misdemeanor or felony.
Misdemeanors & First-Time Offender Options
Misdemeanors are divided into classes, from A to C. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious and carry fines of up to $4000, jail time of up to one year in county jail, and probation of up to two years or three years with an extension. Examples of Class A misdemeanors include:
- assault with bodily injury
- resisting arrest
- carrying a weapon unlawfully, or
- second offense driving while intoxicated (DWI).
Class B misdemeanor convictions can result in up to 180 days in county jail. These offenses include crimes like:
- criminal trespassing
- indecent exposure, and
- possessing two ounces or less of marijuana.
Class C misdemeanor convictions do not result in jail time, but you could face a fine. Examples of Class C misdemeanors include:
- traffic violations
- public intoxication, and
In Texas, first-time misdemeanor offenders can participate in first-offender programs, which include the following.
- Intervention, where the attorney intervenes with the prosecution prior to formal charges filed. An experienced attorney may argue on your behalf that you have an otherwise clean record and that this incident was a one-time mistake. Depending on the circumstances, the prosecution may decide to drop or reduce the charges.
- Pretrial diversion program, where first-time offenders who committed nonviolent misdemeanors can complete a program, and if done successfully, can have the charges dismissed and immediately request for expunction.
- Deferred adjudication, where first-time offenders agree to a plea deal and are placed on probation, and if successfully completed, can have the case dismissed and can -- after a period of time -- request non-disclosure.
- Specialty courts, where the first-time offender's case is heard by a specialty court, usually indicating a drug or alcohol problem. The intent of these programs is rehabilitation classes and community service in place of jail.
Felonies & First-Time Offender Program
Felony offenses are the most serious type of criminal offenses. In Texas, punishment can be harsh and are in accordance with the degree of the felony. Felonies can be charged as state jail felonies, a third-degree felony, a second-degree felony, or a first-degree felony. Penalty range is wide and diverse, from jail sentences starting at 180 days to life in prison to finds in excess of $10,000. For some first-time felony offenders -- primarily drug offenders -- there is the potential for a reprieve.
The Felony Pretrial Diversion Program is used only when strict eligibility criteria is met. If met, the program could involve:
- community service restitution, and
- other appropriate conditions.
Plea Deals vs. Trial for First-Offenders in Austin
The programs for first-time offenders of either misdemeanors or felonies most often require the defendant to plead guilty via a plea deal. Sometimes, though, defendants want to fight the charge.
A first-time offender will rely on his or her attorney to advise strategic options. If the prosecutor offers a defendant a plea deal, it will be important to consider if it is the best option considering the circumstances.
A plea deal has benefits, but it is not for every defendant. A plea deal may involve lesser charges and lower penalties. It also saves time and resources. But it can still involve jail time, fines, and probation -- and will leave you with a criminal record, which can impact your future. If a defendant has a good case or wants to fight the charge at all costs, a trial may be more beneficial and is the only way to avoid a conviction if successful.
Resourceful First-Time Offender Defense Attorney in Austin, TX
Ultimately, it is essential for a first-time offender to have a trustworthy, competent lawyer who is able to weigh the evidence and specifics of the case to determine the most effective way to proceed. Only an experienced, aggressive negotiator can fight for a client's best interests. Whether that involves obtaining a favorable plea bargain and/or advocating for a first-time offender program, the ultimate goal is to achieve the best possible outcome. Contact Jason English today at 512-454-7548 or online for an initial consultation.