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What a first-time offender may expect in a drug case

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Being arrested for the first time on a criminal drug-related charge is something no one forgets. The worries abound, including whether imprisonment will derail your life.

As a first-time drug offender, you wonder what to expect. Will you beat this charge? Will you get a chance to redeem yourself? That depends on many factors, including whether the state of Florida wants to help in your rehabilitation as well as the guidance of a criminal defense attorney.

Type of drugs and amount of drugs

The main factors determining whether people get jail time are whether they have a previous criminal record, the types of drugs and amounts of controlled substances in their possession.

The severity of the charge also plays a factor as what happens to you as a first-time offender. While possession of a small amount of a controlled substance may not land a person in jail, the possession and conviction of having a large amount likely leads to a prison sentence.

Assistance through drug courts

In many cases, though, the state wants first-time offenders to avoid incarceration. For example, Florida has been one of the pioneering states when it comes to making efforts to help such offenders avoid conviction and jail time. Relying on diversion programs and “drug courts,” the state has helped many receive sentence reductions and the dismissal of charges through efforts that include enrollment in rehabilitation programs.

Here are some examples:

  • Drug courts: In 1989, the state launched a revolutionary drug court in Miami-Dade County, combining drug treatment with aspects of the judicial system. Drug court typically focuses on small-time offenders in helping them avoid addiction, while steering them away from a life of crime. The rehabilitation program includes involvement from treatment specialists, mental health care workers, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
  • Federal First Offender Act: This federal law allows for a probation program for first-time offenders. The law seeks leniency for non-violent offenses such as drug possession.

Some of these programs just may help you turn your life around and avoid the stigma of a drug conviction.

Avoiding jail

In most cases, courts want to help first-time offenders avoid jail. They may rely on pre-trial diversion programs to help achieve this goal. Such programs provide education, community service, and treatment and guidance related to criminal drug charges. By completing such programs, your charges may be reduced or dismissed.