Criminal Court Proceedings: First-Time vs. Repeat Offenders
In a criminal trial, there are differences in the way the proceedings work for first-time offenders vs. repeat offenders. Industry experts recognize a difference between a mistake people make when they are younger vs. an ongoing pattern of breaking the law.
Regardless of your criminal history, it’s critical you hire a good defense attorney to protect your interests. If it’s your first offense, then there might be options to expunge the charge and clear your record. If it’s a repeat offense, then you need a proactive defense to minimize the ruling and consequence.
First Time Offender: What You Need to Know
In the legal industry, “first-time offender” means the person being charged with a crime has no history of criminal activity. This is the first instance of documented trouble. If you’ve never had a run-in with the law before and zero previous convictions, then you’ll likely be referred to as a first-time offender.
Most first-time offenders feel nervous and unsure about these criminal charges because they don’t know what to expect in the court proceedings. The good news is that first-time offenders sometimes receive a bit of leniency from the court. This leniency depends on the type of crime and the extenuating circumstances.
As a first-time offender, you might receive:
- A reduced sentence
- Alternative sentencing, such as probation or parole
- Lower fines
The severity of the sentence varies depending on your location and how state law affects minimum and maximum penalties for the type of crime. But the court always has the discretion to determine an appropriate punishment. So, it’s worth the investment to hire legal support to ensure an optimal outcome for your sentencing.
First Time Offender Program
When it’s a first offense, the court often looks for alternative solutions to focus on rehabilitation instead of strict punishment. For example, diversion programs sometimes provide first-time offenders the opportunity to receive treatment and correct these issues without serving jail time. These first-time offender programs are common for youth, minors, and individuals with mental health issues.
The main benefit of a first-time offender program is that the successful completion of the program might result in reducing or deferring the sentence. Sometimes, the judge will dismiss the charges entirely, giving the individual a fresh start and clean record.
At this point, there are no statewide first-time offender programs in the state of Oklahoma. But the state allows municipalities and counties to offer these programs as they see fit.
How Things Change for Repeat Offenders
When someone repeats the same offense multiple times, they are known as a repeat offender. At this point, a history of criminal activity is building, and the court views how this increasing threat might affect the community’s safety.
Repeat offenses tend to have a serious impact on the severity of sentencing. Additionally, it is common for the court to elevate the crime. While the court views the same circumstance as a misdemeanor for a first-time offender, it could be a felony conviction for repeat offenses. Felony convictions come with longer jail sentences and higher fines than misdemeanors.
The most serious penalties occur when a person commits multiple crimes. Oklahoma is known as one of the harshest states for criminal offenses. For example, the three strikes law outlines that a person with three criminal convictions (and one of them involving a violent felony), then the offender faces life in prison.
Repeat offenders can also face life in prison with only one previous conviction for certain types of crimes. The severity of these issues encourages the courts to take the person out of society to minimize the community risk of harm in the future. These severe offenses include convictions such as:
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Child indecency
- Sexual assault (aggravated or rape)
If you have any of these offenses on your record, then it’s critical that you hire an attorney as soon as possible. Make sure you are working with a team that has extensive experience in defending cases for repeat offenders. The proper defense might reduce a life sentence to a shorter time you need to spend in prison.
Reduce the Risk of a Repeat Offender Designation
When you are charged with a repeat crime, you must be proactive to be found “not guilty” to avoid the designation as a repeat offender. Your lawyer will help you avoid conviction by building a defense using specific strategies, such as:
- Showing the jury the reasonable doubt in your case
- Excluding evidence gathered unconstitutionally (through a suppression motion)
- Highlighting inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case
- Calling witnesses to testify and build your case
- Disputing the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses
- Providing evidence to show the inaccuracy of your charges
These defense strategies help to reduce the likelihood of conviction and becoming a repeat offender. Even if the court decides to move forward with the sentence, this strong legal case will have a positive impact to reduce your sentencing potentially.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Defense?
It doesn’t matter the severity of your crime or the number of offenses. Professional legal help is essential to protecting your record and minimizing the long-term effects of these charges. Many people experience long-lasting effects from a criminal record. Even if it is a minor offense, it could impact employment opportunities, rental agreements, loan accessibility, and other aspects of your life.
Hiring a reputable criminal defense attorney is the first step when you receive a criminal charge. Your attorney helps you navigate every detail of the legal process. Initial consultations and personal advice can minimize the problems as the court pursues the case.
Additionally, your lawyer will help with building a solid defense that protects your interests. The goal is to show extenuating circumstances or any other details that might reduce your sentence or eliminate the charges altogether.
AMA Law: Trusted Criminal Defense Attorneys in Oklahoma
If you or someone you know is facing a criminal charge, then hiring an attorney is the most important thing you can do. These legal services help to protect your record and manage the severity of the punishment. Your lawyer is an essential investment to provide yourself with more opportunities in the future.
For more information about hiring an Oklahoma attorney, you are welcome to contact us today for a consultation. AMA Law offers a variety of legal services with personalized support for every client.