It’s easy to think that anyone arrested for a crime has criminal tendencies and should be punished. But the truth is that many people charged with crimes are not what we would consider “criminals.” Sometimes a person is in the wrong place at the wrong time or hanging out with the wrong people. An otherwise law abiding person could slip up and do something unlawful.
These are a few examples of the kind of people I represent at my criminal defense law practice:
- A college student goes out, drinks too much and gets into a bar fight – resulting in charges for public intoxication, assault, and resisting arrest.
- A teenage girl goes shopping with a friend who pressures her into slipping some clothes into her bag, resulting in a misdemeanor shoplifting charge.
- A woman is driving home after having a couple glasses of wine at dinner, putting her over the legal blood alcohol limit of .08%, and is stopped for drunk driving.
- A man is upset when his girlfriend breaks up with him for a new guy and keys the guy’s car — ending up with a vandalism charge.
- A few people drive to a concert with some friends of friends, not realizing that there are 8 ounces of marijuana hidden under the car seat – causing everyone in the vehicle to be arrested for drug distribution.
- Two 14 year old boys break into a neighbor’s car, placing them in the juvenile justice system.
Obviously these people are not hardened criminals — they could be your neighbor, friend or family member. A momentary lapse of judgment or too much alcohol can certainly cause someone with a clean criminal record to suddenly be facing misdemeanor or felony charges.
The good news is that first time offenders have more options for their defense. Often the district attorney will allow first time offenders to enter diversion programs, such as the pre trial diversion program in Louisiana and the non-adjudication process in Mississippi. If the defendant successfully completes the program, the criminal charge will be dropped and the arrest will be eligible for expungement. This process will essentially give the person a clean record again. Keeping a felony or misdemeanor charge of your record is extremely advantageous, so it’s is important to fight for the best possible outcome.
People aren’t perfect and we all make mistakes one time or another. The key is to learn from the experience and avoid getting yourself into a similar situation in the future.