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Georgia First Offender Act (FOA)

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Georgia First Offender Act for Probation

Under Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60, the Georgia First Offender Act for probation provides as follows:

  1. Upon a verdict or plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere (Latin for “no contest”), but before an adjudication of guilt, in the case of a defendant who has not been previously convicted of a felony, the court may, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant:
    1. Defer further proceeding and place the defendant on probation as provided by law; or
    2. Sentence the defendant to a term of confinement as provided by law.
  2. Upon violation by the defendant of the terms of probation, upon a conviction for another crime during the period of probation, or upon the court determining that the defendant is or was not eligible for sentencing under this article (i.e, Defendant had used a “First Offender” plea previously), the court may enter an adjudication of guilt and proceed as otherwise provided by law (i.e, sentence the Defendant up to the maximum punishment provided by law regardless of how much time the Defendant has spent on probation. This is known as the “bad side” of a first offender plea.). No person may avail himself or herself of this article on more than one occasion.
  3. The court shall not sentence a defendant under the provisions of this article and, if sentenced under the provisions of this article, shall not discharge the defendant upon completion of the sentence unless the court has reviewed the defendant́s criminal record as such is on file with the Georgia Crime Information Center.
  4. The court shall not sentence a defendant under the provisions of this article who has been found guilty of or entered a plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere for:
    1. A serious violent felony as such term is defined in Code Section 17-10-6.1;
    2. A sexual offense as such term is defined in Code Section 17-10-6.2;
    3. Sexual exploitation of a minor as defined in Code Section 16-12-100;
    4. Electronically furnishing obscene material to a minor as defined in Code Section 16-12-100.1; or
    5. Computer pornography and child exploitation, as defined in Code Section 16-12-100.2.“

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In short, if the terms of the first offender’s probation sentence are completed successfully the probationer’s case is essentially dismissed. The charges sentenced under the First Offender Act are sealed on the Georgia Criminal Information Center (hereinafter “GCIC”) database when the GCIC is notified by the clerk of court where the case was held. The first offender plea despite being sealed may be available from private data collection companies.

The Georgia Law O.C.G.A.  § 42-8-63 provides a discharge under this article is not a conviction of a crime and may not be used to disqualify a person in any application for employment or appointment to office in either the public or private sector. However, there is no legal enforcement provision for this code section.