Does the Georgia First Offender Act Apply to DUI?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Oct 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” See: O.C.G.A 42-8-60

Many people confuse Georgia First Offense Referral Form (formerly the affidavit of first conviction) with “First Offender Treatment.”  They are not the same thing.  

Most criminal offenses qualify for first offender status.  When a person is sentenced under the first offender act, the court withholds adjudication of guilt while he or she serves probation.  Upon a successful completion of probation, they defendant is adjudicated not guilty.  They can honestly answer they have not been convicted of the crime. Further, their record can be restricted, thereby preventing prospective employers from seeing the arrest.

Because of the unpopularity of DUI, the Georgia General Assembly has made DUI ineligible for First Offender treatment.  It makes no sense.  A person can be sentenced as a first offender on serious violent felonies but cannot be on a misdemeanor DUI offense. 

I question the wisdom of our legislature.  What makes a DUI more serious than aggravated assault?  To answer my own question, there is not a political organization called "Mothers Against Assault."  Yes, the answer is politics.  As a result, we do not give people a second chance when it comes to their DUI arrests in Georgia.

I have a young client with a DUI pending right now.  She is a sweet and genuinely decent person who made a mistake.  She also has no viable legal or factual defenses.  Her mother is heartbroken, and I do not blame her.  She deserves a second chance at least as much as someone who points a gun at someone, commits acts of domestic violence, sells drugs, or commits a theft.

When will we realize that all people deserve a second chance?  To single out DUI as practically the only offense that does not deserve a second chance is cruel and unfair.

For more information about the Georgia First Offender Act, visit the Georgia DUI Information website.

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Richard Lawson

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