At The Denson Law Firm, we understand first-time offenders’ fear and anxiety after an arrest. The prospect of losing your freedom is scary, and there is fear of the unknown. A criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County, Florida, has the expertise and experience you deserve and the guidance you need.
Our goal is to alleviate as many of these fears as possible. For first-time offenders, we provide you with information about the criminal process, so you will know what to expect. We work with you each step of the way, leveraging 14+ years of criminal defense experience to get the best outcome possible for your case.
First-Time Criminal Cases We Handle
We defend clients charged with virtually any criminal offense, including first-time offenders.
- First-time DUI / DWI charges: including underage drinking and driving and DUI / DWI charges against commercial drivers and truckers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs).
- First-time theft crime charges: including shoplifting, petty theft, and grand theft
- First-time juvenile offenses: including juvenile crime charges of assault, theft, DUI, drugs, and other crimes
- First-time drug offenses: including drug possession and distribution of drugs charges
- First-time sex offenses: including sexual assault, date rape, statutory rape, and other sex crimes
- First-time violent crime offenses: including weapons charges, assault and battery, domestic violence, fighting, and other violent crimes
We approach each first-time offender case with diligence, conducting a thorough analysis to develop the best strategy for your particular case.
Common Concerns of First-Time Offenders
At The Denson Firm, we understand that you probably have concerns about what lies ahead. Common concerns of first-time offenders include:
- Will I have to go to court?
- What types of penalties could I be facing?
- Will there be media coverage?
- What kind of short-term or long-term consequences should I anticipate?
- Do I have to answer questions from the judge?
- Could I go back to jail?
- Can I get leniency and stay out of jail with any special programs?
- Will I have a criminal record?
- If I do get a criminal record, can it be sealed or expunged?
If you have any of these concerns, or others, know you are not alone. A criminal defense attorney can help.
How We Can Help
Whether you are charged with a first-time theft crime, DUI, juvenile offense, or other crime, we can help you understand your options and provide sound advice on your best course of action. We know this is probably one of the most challenging times in your life, and we will answer your questions. If your goal is to have the charges against you dismissed and your record sealed, you may want to consider a Pre-Trial Intervention Program or Pre-Trial Diversion.
Pre-Trial Intervention/Diversion Program
Pre-Trial Intervention, sometimes called Pre-Trial Diversion, PTI, First-Time Offender Program, or State Attorney Probation, can be a great way to resolve the charges against you. These diversion programs guarantee the charges against you will be dismissed if you successfully complete the program. Terms of the programs vary based upon the type of offense, and they generally work like probation with a required monthly meeting with a PTI officer.
You must stay out of trouble, make restitution–if owed, complete drug counseling–if necessary, or other sanctions tailored to the offense—some of these programs last six months, and some last 18 months or more.
Once completed, the charge against you is dismissed, and as long as you are eligible, it may be sealed and, in some counties, expunged.
However, you should not enter into one of these agreements without first consulting with a criminal defense attorney. Sometimes terms and conditions can be negotiated. Also, it is possible to get early termination of these programs in some circumstances.
You want to make sure your legal rights are protected. An attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed without entering into a First-Time Offender Program.
Frequently Asked Questions
When you are arrested, it can be a very confusing time. The criminal justice is complex. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions of first-time offenders.
What is the common jail or prison time for criminal charges in Florida?
The potential jail or prison time length corresponds with the severity of the criminal charges. Misdemeanors have shorter lengths, and felony crimes typically have longer sentences.
If an individual is convicted of a crime, here are the standard parameters in Florida:
- First-degree misdemeanor — up to 1 year in jail
- Second-degree misdemeanor — up to 60 days in jail
- Capital felony — life imprisonment or the death penalty
- Life felony — life imprisonment
- First-degree felony — up to 30 years in prison
- Second-degree felony — up to 15 years in prison
- Third-degree felony — up to 5 years in prison
As you can see, there is a wide range of sentence lengths. Your criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County, Florida, fights for your rights to get the best outcome possible.
Can I represent myself in court?
Some first-time offenders believe they do not need a private attorney because they have never faced charges. They may think the courts will be lenient in all cases to keep the jail or prison population down. This is not true. You have the legal option to represent yourself, but it is not recommended. The prosecution works aggressively for a conviction, and you need an experienced lawyer to fight for your rights.
A criminal defense attorney has strong negotiation skills and the necessary legal experience. What happens in the court will affect you for the rest of your life, and making the right decision is critical for what will happen in the future.
How do I get bail after being arrested in Pinellas County?
The process typically depends on the charges. The bail is set after your arrest if it is a minor misdemeanor charge. You can either pay a cash bond to be released from jail or go through a third-party bail bonding company to cover the expenses and bail you out. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances of the case, you may be released on your own recognizance and not have to pay anything.
You can’t get bail immediately if it is a more severe charge involving sexual, violent, or felony-level crimes. It will be set at your arraignment (the first appearance before the judge). Depending on the circumstances of the case, you may or may not be eligible to get bailed out.
The cost of the bail is determined by several factors, including your financial situation, whether you are a flight risk, or your potential to be a danger to the community.
Can I get my first-time offense dropped or expunged?
First-time offenders can sometimes get their charges dropped or expunged. Your attorney may be able to obtain leniency from the judge due to your “clean” record and get the charges dropped or negotiate a “Withholding of Adjudication” with the prosecutor and the judge. This plea bargain can avoid a conviction, even if you have a sentence, for example, to complete a diversion program. A “Withholding of Adjudication” allows you to be eligible to have your records sealed or expunged.
Important note: If you are convicted of the offense, Florida law prohibits the sealing or expungement of any case.
Schedule a free initial confidential consultation with an experienced Pinellas County criminal defense attorney. Bruce Denson has extensive experience successfully defending those charged with first-time criminal offenses.
We provide experienced representation to individuals charged with a first offense in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and throughout Pinellas County, including Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park, St. Pete Beach, Gulfport, Indian Rocks Beach, Kenneth City, Madeira Beach, and Seminole.