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First-Time Offenders

When a person faces criminal charges for the first time in his or her life, he or she has many, many questions. Will I have to go to jail? Will I have a criminal record, and will I be able to continue my career? What will this mean for my family? Is there any way out of this?

Being arrested for the first time is a scary thing to happen to anyone. The important thing to remember is that you do not have to go through this alone. The Constitution gives you the right to an attorney, and it is one of the most important decisions a person can make.

An attorney will protect your rights and seek the best possible result, including if there are any options for a diversion program, deferred adjudication or other forms or leniency.

Fort Lauderdale Lawyer for a First Arrest

If you were arrested for the first time in Broward County, the best decision you can make is to promptly contact a skilled attorney who will review all of your options with you. A Fort Lauderdale first-time offender lawyer from Meltzer & Bell, P.A. can represent you and seek the best possible results for you.

As a former Broward County prosecutor and a former Broward County public defender who got our starts here in the 17th Circuit, we understand the courts and the options available to first-time offenders. Call us today at (954) 716-8538 to set up a consultation with one of our partners.

We represent clients throughout Broward County from our Fort Lauderdale office, including in Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Coral Springs,  Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, Weston, Sunrise, Davie, Plantation and Wilton Manors.


Information for Broward County First-Time Offenders


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Common First Offenses in Broward County

A person can be charged with a first offense for any violation of the law. However, some offenses are more common than others among people arrested for the first time. Some of them include:

  • Drug possession
  • Minor in possession of alcohol
  • Criminal trespass
  • Criminal mischief
  • Driving under the influence
  • Petit theft
  • Reckless driving
  • Breach of the peace / disorderly conduct
  • Prostitution / solicitation

Most people face misdemeanor charges, like these, on their first arrest. It is very important to treat these accusations seriously. For many, it is possible to be sentenced to time in jail. Even if not sentenced to jail, though, a conviction will stay on your record and cannot be expunged under most circumstances.


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Options for First Offenders in Florida

It is always an option to fight the charges. At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we zealously defend our clients, challenging evidence and seeking to have charges reduced or dismissed.

However, we also will advise you of other options that may be available to you as a person facing charges for the first time. These options allow for your charges to be dismissed if you meet certain terms, meaning you may be able to expunge all records relating to the arrest and offense.

The choice of whether to fight the charges or seek one of these solutions is entirely yours, and we will work vigorously toward achieving your goal, whatever you choose.

Felony Pre-Trial Intervention

The 17th Judicial Circuit allows people facing certain third-degree felony charges to participate in pre-trial intervention (PTI) program in Broward County, FL.  The program excludes certain offenses. Excluded offenses include:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Weapons charges
  • Robbery
  • Any violent crime
  • Residential burglary
  • Possession of an anti-shoplifting control device
  • Fleeing to elude law enforcement
  • Any DUI charge (even a first DUI)
  • Fraud against government agencies, including welfare fraud and unemployment compensation fraud

You do not necessarily have to be a first-time offender to qualify, but you may have only one non-violent misdemeanor conviction on your record. You must apply within 45 days of arraignment, so it is critical that you act quickly. Acceptance is at the State Attorney's discretion. A lawyer can help make sure you are allowed in.

Misdemeanor Diversion Program

The 17th Circuit also has a misdemeanor diversion program (often called the Misdemeanor Intervention Program or "MIP") for certain types of misdemeanor offenses, excluding DUI, domestic violence offenses and, on a case-by-case basis, assault, battery and other charges.  You cannot have any prior convictions on your record, and cannot have ever entered a diversion program.

The person seeking to be admitted must file an application within 30 days after arraignment. If a person makes certain mistakes, like submitting a demand for discovery, then he or she will become ineligible for the program. This is why hiring an attorney is so vital — to keep from making errors.

Broward County Drug Court

If charged with an offense relating to drugs, including possession but also any charge that is related to substance abuse, you may be eligible for drug court if you have no prior felony conviction. In drug court, you will be required to go through treatment, counseling and/or therapy as the court requires.


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Finding an Attorney in Broward County for a First Offense

If you are facing criminal charges for the first time in Broward County, it is important you understand all your options. A Fort Lauderdale defense lawyer from Meltzer & Bell, P.A. can explain all your options, advise you on what is most feasible and zealously advocate for your choice.

Call us today at (954) 716-8538 to schedule a free consultation.


This article was last updated on Thursday, October 20, 2016.