A First-Time Offender’s Guide To Handling Criminal Charges


Things can easily get complicated once you’re charged with a criminal offense as a lot can go wrong from that point. If you’re a first-time offender, you might be worried about how you should go about trying to avoid the worst-case scenario given your charges.

After arraignment, you and your attorney will need to devise the best defense for the case. How you handle your charges depends on what’s at stake for you. For instance, the gravity of the offense and its potential sentence can affect your disposition. To understand this, you’d better know what first-time offender refers to.

First Offender Definition

You’re a first offender if you don’t have a criminal history or, more precisely, you haven’t been convicted of a crime in the past. Being a first-time offender may place you in a better position and make you more likely to get a lenient ruling from the court or even a pretrial intervention, but this depends on the nature of your offense.

The first-time offender also means you haven’t been through this process before, and it could be too overwhelming and intimidating. So much is at stake, yet you don’t know what to expect because you haven’t been so close to this way before. Don’t worry too much if you’re in this situation. Below is a working guide of what to expect.

Typical Process For First Offenders

As hinted above, being a first-timer increases your chances of getting a positive ruling from the court, and this usually means relaxed sentences and fines. However, this isn’t always the case. In some, this leniency doesn’t always apply. Plus, if the nature of your offense is grave enough, the court will be forced to be strict.

In some states, even if it’s a first, driving under the influence (DUI) is considered a serious offense. This kind of reckless driving is given gravity by the courts because of the risk it poses not just to the driver but to the general public as well. The gravity increases if the offense is coupled with other infractions such as resisting arrest or vehicular homicide.

If your first offense is DUI, then depending on your state, you can expect some of the following:

  • Generally, your fine is dependent upon a few factors. These may include the state you’re in, the alcohol content level, and the presence or absence of children in the vehicle when DUI happen. If your blood alcohol content levels are high and you have children in the car, then you might expect a higher fine.
  • Several factors are also going to determine how long your license will be suspended. In many states, a license is automatically suspended after a DUI. If you had children in your vehicle at the time of the offense, the suspension of your license may be extended.
  • Again, depending on the scope and circumstances, you might have to face probation. Some cases may involve jail time, counseling, or fines.
  • In some cases, as a first offender, you might be expected to go through drug and alcohol counseling. In some instances, this will be done in combination with jail time or community service.
  • Sometimes, DUI offenders are required to commit to community service for a period set by the court.

You could also get jail time as a result of your first DUI offense, so the best option is to get in touch with one of the most experienced DUI attorneys. In some states, the court will follow a set range of days or months for specific offenses; whereas in others, the court has case-to-case discretion to set jail time for the offenses as long as it falls within a given range.

Lesser Offenses

Defining this can be difficult as each case depends on the extent of the violation. If you get in a physical altercation, how bad is the other party hurt and are there any other details that could aggravate your offense? Despite these variances, it remains that in cases such as public intoxication and assault, you’ll be less likely to get jail time. Chances are you’ll be fined, sent to probation, and be part of counseling or community service as punishment for the offense.

Doing the same offense could lead to getting a harsher sentence as you’ll be regarded as a repeat offender. Felony charges also often result in harsher sentences even for first-time offenders than for misdemeanor charges.


Winding up on the wrong side of the law is scary for most. It’s a new world and you’re not sure what might potentially happen. In reality, there are often outcomes for you. Knowing them can help you identify how much assistance you’ll need.