If this is your first offense for a DUI drug offense, you could be able to take advantage of a program called conditional discharge. This program allows first-time offenders to be sentenced to a probation program rather than going straight to jail. It has lofty goals that include preventing future incidents of law-breaking and helping a person get on the right track.
To know if you could take advantage of this program, you need an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney at your side to make your case and defend your constitutional rights.
Georgia Law on Conditional Discharge
A person may be able to take advantage of the conditional discharge program if he or she was convicted of a crime related to:
- narcotic drugs
- hallucinogenic drugs
The crime can be because a person directly used drugs, possessed drugs, or committed some form of property crime caused by the alleged offender's substance addiction or abuse.
To be placed on the program, the court and the defendant must agree and there are strict conditions that apply. Also, there are two very important things to understand about this program:
- a suspect can only use this program one time, and
- the program can only be used for drug-related crimes.
Criminal Charges Covered by the Program
Many common crimes that are handled through the conditional discharge program include, but are not necessarily limited to the following:
- Possession of marijuana
- Possession of stimulants
- Non-violent property crimes related to drugs or alcohol
- Minors attempting to purchase or possess alcohol
- Minors lying about their age to get alcohol
- Possession of narcotic drugs
- Drug DUI
Conditional Discharge: How It All Works
In order to be able to participate in the program, it is required that a person be guilty of the offense. This means that if there is a legitimate constitutional issue that could result in dismissal of your charges, this should be handled with the help of your attorney first. Once you enter into the program, you will lose the ability to fight against your charges in the same way.
When a person wishes to be a part of a conditional discharge program, he or she begins this process by entering a guilty plea to the offense the person is charged with. Once that person pleads guilty, he or she gives up the constitutional right to fight against the charges. The rights that are given up also include the following.
- Right to a pretrial hearing (to challenge probable cause for arrest and charges).
- Right to a Suppression Hearing (to challenge the constitutionality of evidence collection, the arrest, searches, and warrants).
- Right to a trial by jury or the judge.
- Right to have prosecutor bring witnesses in open court.
- Right to the presumption of innocence.
- Right to cross-examine witnesses.
- Right to testify or remain silent.
- Speedy trial rights.
After the Guilty Plea
Once the defendant agrees to plead guilty, the court actually does not accept that guilty plea. Instead, the court will impose a series of conditions the defendant is required to follow. If he or she successfully completes all of the conditions, the court will never have to accept the guilty plea.
If the defendant completes all of the terms and the court, as a result, does not accept the guilty plea, the person is never convicted of the offense charged. This means that you will never have been convicted of a crime. If you are ever asked "Have you ever been convicted of a felony," you can truthfully answer that question, "No."
Typical Requirements Imposed by the Judge
A judge has very wide discretion in ordering conditions, but there are certain typical conditions that are common in these types of conditional discharge cases. These conditions may also vary depending on the underlying criminal charge.
Drug Possession Cases
In drug possession type cases, it is very normal for a judge to impose a drug rehabilitation program as part of a defendant's conditions. The exact recommendations and requirement will vary depending on the person's usage and the nature of the charges.
The goal of treatment is to educate offenders and attempt to create a situation in which the defendant will not re-offend, and it can battle the underlying addiction that is often at the root of the problem. On top of this treatment condition, the judge will require that the defendant remain a law-abiding citizen during the time of the conditional discharge probation period. Failure to follow the law could result in the entry of a guilty plea against you.
Drug cases can have a very serious impact on your life if left undefended. With the help of the right lawyer, you can work towards conditional discharge and help to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected. You do not have to face this process alone.
Success or Failure: The Results
If a defendant fails to meet all of the terms of the conditional discharge probation, they are required to return to court. At that point, the judge has the power to accept the defendant's previously entered guilty plea. The judge will then impose conditions of probation while you await sentencing. At this point, you are considered a convicted felon, and this will remain on your record for the foreseeable future.
If instead, you successfully meet all of the requirements, the charges against you are officially and completely dismissed. No felony conviction will be entered on the record against you. It will be as though there were never charges against you in the first place. A future employer will not know of your run-in with the law and cannot use a conditional discharge against you in making employment decisions.
Ultimately, you want to meet every condition and prove to the judge that you are serious about getting your life back on track. Successful completion of the program can make all the difference in your life.
Consult an Experienced Atlanta DUI Attorney
A Drug DUI conviction can be devastating to your life. With a successful conditional discharge, you can avoid those effects. To defend your case and protect your legal rights, an Atlanta DUI attorney can represent you. Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.