How Can Being a First-Time Offender Affect Your Penalties and Case?
For anyone who’s never had a run-in with the law before, facing a criminal charge for the very first time can be extremely intimidating and terrifying, particularly if they don’t have any idea what to expect. If you are like most first-time offenders, one of your primary concerns is whether you will spend time in prison if you get convicted. You are likewise probably concerned about community service requirements, hefty fines, and how having a criminal record will affect your life.
Fortunately for first-time offenders in Texas, the courts may give you some leniency, depending on the specific nature of the criminal charges you are facing.
Are Courts More Lenient on First-Time Offenders in Texas?
Generally, first offenses are usually associated with lower fines, reduced sentences, and alternative sentencing options such as probation or parole, among others. In Texas, while the courts offer some leniency for qualified first-time offenders, the decisions would mainly be based on the seriousness of their offenses. Whether you’re charged with a felony or misdemeanor, you might be able to avoid incarceration and other penalties through the following sentencing alternatives:
- The pretrial diversion program or another kind of deferred adjudication requires a defendant to complete a special one-year program to have their case dismissed.
- Plea bargaining for probation, community services, or participation in a similar program instead of getting a prison or jail sentence.
- Specialty courts where a criminal conviction may not lead to as severe penalties as might in other venues. These courts, such as drug courts, favor rehabilitative penalties like substance abuse programs, counseling, and community service.
Leniency options are usually available to first-time offenders who committed non-violent crimes and those who enter into a plea deal with the court. But whether or not you enter into a plea deal will depend on your specific situation, whether you are fine with giving up your legal right to fight the charge in court, and the available evidence against you.
What Do Judges Consider When Deciding Criminal Punishments?
Besides guidance from the Texas Penal Code, judges will need to consider the following factors when deciding what punishments to impose on the defendant:
- The severity of the crime, the specific circumstances surrounding the crime, and any previous arrests or convictions
- The harm suffered by the victim and whether or not the defendant shows any remorse for their actions
Take note that since judges have significant discretion, defendants may face very different penalties for the same crime.
Seek Legal Counsel From an Experienced Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney Now
A wide array of penalties and collateral consequences will inevitably follow when you get convicted of a crime in Texas. Some of these may be too harsh for the crime you committed, while others may be life-altering. If you have been convicted of a non-violent crime, certain alternatives to jail time and having a criminal record may be available for you.
To learn more about your specific case and your legal options, contact the law office of Kyle Whitaker. You can set up your consultation with our Fort Worth criminal defense attorney by sending us a message online or calling 817-332-7703.