Are You Facing a Criminal Charge for the First Time?

Have you been charged with a criminal offense for the first time? If that happens to you in the greater St. Louis area, you’ll need the services and advice that a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney offers, and you will need to contact that attorney as quickly as possible.

Being arrested and charged with a crime does not mean that you’ll be convicted. In order to convict you, the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Stay calm, and contact a Jefferson County criminal defense lawyer who will cast doubt on the state’s case against you.

Even if you’re convicted, the law in Missouri is sometimes lenient if you are a first-time offender with no prior criminal background. Many first-time offenders qualify for deferred prosecution or diversion programs where charges can be dismissed if the offender meets certain conditions.

What Alternatives May Be Offered to First-Time Offenders?

Typically, after an individual is accused of a crime, the state will prosecute that person and seek a criminal conviction. However, authorities in Missouri understand that in many cases, aggressive prosecutions and convictions do little to prevent crime in the future or to keep the public safe.

Thus, the State of Missouri has established a number of alternatives to prosecuting and convicting first-time offenders. These alternatives include deferred prosecutions, diversion programs, drug courts, DWI courts, and family, juvenile, and veterans courts.

What is Required for Diversion and Treatment Programs?

The prosecutor and judge may determine if a first-time offender qualifies for a diversion or treatment program. First-time offenders who are charged with non-violent drug or alcohol-related offenses are usually eligible for one of these programs.

When a defendant is eligible, the judge will explain the diversion or treatment program to the defendant, the requirements for successful completion, and the penalties for not completing or participating in the program. Diversion and treatment programs in Missouri may require:

  1.  a substance abuse evaluation, counseling, and treatment
  2.  avoiding drugs and alcohol and agreeing to random alcohol and drug testing
  3.  meeting regularly with a probation officer and reporting regularly to the court
  4.  restrictions on travel
  5.  attending Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings

How Do Diversion and Treatment Work?

If a defendant qualifies for a diversion and treatment program and agrees to participate, the court usually requires a guilty plea, a fine, and successful completion of treatment. Upon completion, the court may dismiss the case and no conviction will appear on the defendant’s record.

A failure to complete a treatment program usually results in an immediate conviction and sentencing, which may include jail time.

Is Treatment Available Even With a Drug Crime Conviction?

Many eligible first-time offenders who have been convicted of a drug crime in Missouri may avoid jail by participating in a noninstitutional correctional program. A participant may be required to take part in noninstitutional education, treatment, and rehabilitation.

A failure to complete the non-institutional part of the program may require participation in institutionalized treatment as a condition of probation. Successfully completing the treatment program and probation are required in order to avoid a jail sentence.

What is DWI Treatment Court?

DWI (driving while intoxicated) court in Missouri is sometimes offered to repeat DWI offenders. DWI court focuses on substance abuse problems, which are often the cause of repeated driving while intoxicated offenses.

A defendant who qualifies for DWI court may have to participate in a substance abuse treatment or education program, agree to random alcohol and drug testing, and install an ignition interlock device in his or her personal vehicle.

Successfully completing the requirements of a Missouri DWI court can mean avoiding jail for a second or subsequent driving while intoxicated offense and even being allowed limited driving privileges.

When Should You Contact an Attorney?

If you are charged with a criminal offense in Missouri, you must contact a Jefferson County criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible. If the evidence against you is conclusive, and if you qualify for diversion, talk to your lawyer about participating in a diversion program.

However, if you are not guilty, your lawyer will act to have the charge dropped or to have the case dismissed. If those options are not available, in most cases, you should insist on your right to a jury trial, where your lawyer will fight aggressively for a not guilty verdict.

But in every case, consulting your Jefferson County criminal defense attorney and heeding your attorney’s advice is essential. Your lawyer will develop an aggressive defense strategy, explain your options, and recommend the choices you should make, but the final decisions are yours.

What Else Should First-Time Offenders Know?

If you are convicted of a first criminal offense, jail is a possibility, but first-time convicted offenders are often able to avoid jail, and judges in Missouri have a great deal of discretion in sentencing. Other penalties that may be imposed on convicted first-time offenders include:

  1.  restitution, fines, and community service
  2.  electronic monitoring with an ankle bracelet tracking device
  3.  home confinement (“house arrest”), probation, and community supervision
  4.  substance abuse education and treatment

When it decides whether to sentence a convicted first-time offender to jail, the court will consider the severity of the crime along with any aggravating or mitigating factors.

If You Are Placed Under Arrest

If you have never been arrested, a first arrest can be frightening. You may be handcuffed, thrown into a police car, photographed, fingerprinted, and locked in a cell. What’s important to remember is that you have rights – the right to legal counsel and the right to remain silent.

If police officers ask you questions, you must exercise your right to remain silent. You can say something like, “I would prefer not to answer your questions until my attorney is present,” and then say nothing more. You’ll need to contact your attorney at your very first opportunity.

Grafe & Batchelor Aggressively Represents First-Time Offenders

With over thirty years of combined criminal defense experience, the lawyers at Grafe & Batchelor represent first-time offenders in Jefferson County, St. Francois County, Washington County, and across the State of Missouri.

A defense lawyer at Grafe & Batchelor will scrutinize the state’s evidence against you, develop an effective defense strategy, and protect your rights while bringing your criminal case to its best possible outcome.

Whether or not it is your first offense, if you are charged with a crime in or near Jefferson County, call the offices of Grafe & Batchelor immediately at 636-220-5934. The Grafe & Batchelor legal team will advise you and evaluate your case with no cost or obligation.