What is the First Offender Program of the Jefferson County District Attorneys Office?
The First Offender Program is a program in which eligible persons can divert out of the formal criminal court process. Participants sign a contract by which they agree to attend classes, make restitution, engage in community restitution work, secure needed psychiatric, alcohol and/or drug, vocational or other counseling. They agree to take other appropriate measures to assure that they do not repeat their criminal behavior. In return for the successful completion of the program, the District Attorneys Office agrees to reduce to a lesser charge or dismiss.
What is the length of the contract?
The length of the offenders contract depends on the nature and seriousness of the offense, his or her attitude, commitment and educational or counseling needs. Contracts average from 6 months to 1 year or more.
Who is eligible for participation in the program?
To participate in the First Offender Program, the offender must:
Have his/or her attorney (if there is an attorney) sign a waiver of objection so that the offender can speak with the Program Director.
Have no previous criminal conviction or record, except for traffic violations.
Have the consent of the Prosecutor assigned to the case.
Accept responsibility for his/her actions/involvement in the case. (Admission of guilt may not be used against the offender in a criminal court of law.)
Voluntarily agree to participate in the program.
Meet with the Program Director for a personal interview to determine eligibility for participation in the program.
Can an offender be dropped from the program?
YES! An offender's contract terminates if he/she fails to adhere to any of the set conditions in the contract or he/she becomes involved in any violations of the law during the contract period.
If the contract terminates before the completion of the program, the Prosecutor will resume criminal court proceedings, which may result in a criminal conviction.
How is participation in the First Offender Program different from Probation?
A defendant placed on probation is found guilty by the judge or jury, or pleads guilty to a charge and is sentenced. Probation involves formal supervision and is the result of a criminal conviction.
An offender in the First Offender Program is not sentenced. An offender enters the program voluntarily. Any offender may elect to go to court rather than participate in the program. In addition, supervision of an offender under the Program contract is provided by the Program Director on an informal basis. The offender must follow through and meet the deadlines in his/her contract. Upon successful completion of the contract, the case may be reduced to a lesser charge or dismissed.
What benefits does the First Offender Program offer victims, participants, the community and law enforcement agencies?
Where programs of this nature do not exist, offenders receive little or no supervision and they have no access to resources and services following arrest.
Courts and police benefit from elimination of costly court fees and time spent in appearances for court trials, hearings, and pretrial conferences.
Taxpayers benefit. A cost-benefit analysis of our program should a net savings to the County,State and society of $228,600.00 in a single fiscal year.
The offender, through restitution or community service, compensates victims who suffer personal property and monetary loss.
Are there fees involved?
The First Offender Program charges a fee for services. The Program accepts cash or money orders or cashiers checks made out to: Jefferson County District Attorneys office.