Did the police arrest you for the first time in Austin, Texas? Understandably, you must feel some anxiety about what's about to transpire as you anticipate your upcoming court date. If convicted of whatever crime the State says you allegedly committed, you could pay for it with jail time, fines, and community service—among other requirements and penalties included in your sentencing order. We get it that it's scary. However, an experienced, resourceful criminal defense attorney can guide you through the process and help you identify alternatives to jail, and avoid a criminal record.
Jason English, a former prosecutor and experienced criminal defense lawyer in Austin, understands the difficulties and stressors a first-time offense creates. Let him fight for your rights and freedom and pursue the best outcome for your unique situation.
Austin, TX Options for First-Time Offenders
First-time offenders in Texas could avoid serving time in jail through participation in first-time offender programs. The State developed these first-time offender programs to help rehabilitate offenders, prevent recidivism, and reduce overcrowding in jails. First-time offender programs usually require participants to agree to drug testing and attend classes, treatment, or probation. Qualifying for a program often depends on the crime and its classification as a misdemeanor or felony.
Options for Misdemeanors & First-Time Offenders
Texas divides misdemeanors into classes, from A to C. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious. They carry fines of up to $4000, jail time of up to one year in county jail, and probation of two 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 – the attorney intervenes with the prosecution before they file formal charges. 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 could drop or reduce the charges.
- Pretrial diversion program – first-time offenders who committed nonviolent misdemeanors can complete a program. If they do it successfully, they can ask the State to dismiss the charges and immediately request an expunction.
- Deferred adjudication – first-time offenders agree to a plea deal and probation. If they successfully complete probation, they can have the case dismissed. After a certain amount of time, they can also request non-disclosure.
- Specialty courts – a specialty court hears the first-time offender's case, usually indicating a drug or alcohol problem. These programs aim to substitute rehabilitation classes and community service for jail.
What You Need to Know Before Hiring Any Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer
Felonies & First-Time Offender Program
Felony offenses are the most serious type of criminal offense. In Texas, punishment for felony offenses can be harsh. The State determines the punishment for felony offenses according to the degree of the felony. Texas can charge them as state jail felonies, a third-degree felony, a second-degree felony, or a first-degree felony. It's a broad and diverse penalty range, beginning with jail sentences starting at 180 days to life in prison to fines over $10,000. For some first-time felony offenders — primarily drug offenders — the State grants the potential for a reprieve.
Texas employs the Felony Pretrial Diversion Program only when a defendant meets strict eligibility criteria. If the defendant meets the requirements, the program could involve:
- Community service restitution
- other appropriate conditions.
Plea Deals vs. Trial: What Is Better for First-Offenders in Austin?
The programs available to first-time offenders of either misdemeanors or felonies most often require the defendant to plead guilty via a plea deal. However, sometimes 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, the defendant and his or her attorney must consider the best option considering the circumstances.
While a plea deal has its benefits, it is not appropriate for every defendant. A plea deal may involve lesser charges and lower penalties and save time and resources. However, it can still involve jail time, fines, and probation — and result in a criminal record, which can impact the rest of your life. If a defendant has a good case or wants to fight the charge regardless, a trial may prove more beneficial.
Resourceful First-Time Offender Defense Attorney in Austin, TX
As someone who prosecuted cases for over 15 years, Jason S. English understands the strategies prosecutors employ in first offender cases to coerce the accused into pleading guilty. Before you plead guilty to any crime, understand your rights and explore your options for fighting the criminal charges.
Have you been accused of a first offense in Texas? It's imperative to speak to a criminal defense attorney right away. When you're dealing with a first offense, it's not an exaggeration to say that your life depends on retaining an experienced, innovative criminal defense attorney. Attorney Jason S. English recognizes that your freedom depends on his legal prowess in and outside the courtroom. Contact Jason S. English today at 512-454-7548 or online for an initial consultation and help with your protective order violation arrest.