Will I go to jail for a first-time offense?

One single mistake. One misstep, one poor choice, one instance where you trust someone you should not. It only takes one error to face criminal charges, to leave you asking yourself this question: will I go to jail for a first offense?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Sometimes the answer is yes, other times no. There is no clear rule that applies to every situation. Instead, courts take all sorts of considerations into account when answering this question.

With that in mind, it helps to have a basic understanding of how the system works to get a better idea of how it will handle your situation. The following will focus specifically on the impact in Kentucky.

First-time misdemeanor offense: Will they send me to jail?

Misdemeanors are less severe when compared with felonies, but there are still some cases where a conviction could lead to jail time. Kentucky has two types of misdemeanors. The first, Class A, are the most serious. This type can come with up to one year incarceration and $500 in fines. Examples of Class A misdemeanors include possession of four or fewer marijuana plants, shoplifting items under $500, sexual misconduct and violation of a protective order.

The second, Class B misdemeanor, can come with up to 90 days incarceration and $250 in fines. Examples include a first-time DUI offense, public intoxication and second-degree criminal trespass.

Possession of marijuana has its own subcategory within Class B misdemeanors. It can also come with incarceration, but not the full 90 days. Instead, those who are accused of marijuana possession face up to 45 days incarceration.

First-time offense: What about for a felony?

These are much more serious charges. Kentucky law breaks these crimes down as follows:

  • Class A felonies. Kentucky law allows for life or 20 to 50 years imprisonment for a Class A felony, this could include charges of kidnapping and causing serious injury.
  • Class B felonies. This felony can come with 10 to 20 years and includes assault in the first degree, robbery in the first degree and burglary in the first degree, as well as first-degree rape.
  • Class C felonies. A conviction for this class can come with five to 10 years. Examples can include second-degree robbery and burglary charges, as well as second-degree rape and second-degree assault.
  • Class D felonies. These charges can come with one to five years and include third-degree burglary, third-degree assault and third-degree rape.

The differences in a first-degree versus third-degree charge generally have to do with the harm caused. Additional harm or use of a weapon during the alleged crime will often increase the degree of the crime.

These charges often come with a range of potential prison sentences. The court will look at various factors to determine the sentence. This can include whether or not there was a record of prior offenses, whether anyone was harmed, whether the accused is remorseful and what type of a role they play in their community.

One final question: Can I fight back?

Absolutely — and you should. These penalties only apply if the prosecution can gather enough evidence to get a conviction. There are strategies to defeat these attempts. For example, the prosecution is required to follow very specific protocol when building the case. A failure to follow these rules can result in a reduction or even dismissal of charges.

It is also important to focus on the first-time offense status. Whether you are young and learning from a mistake or older with a clear track record of good decision making in the past, this first-time offender status will work in your favor.

Knowing where to look when building a defense strategy is important, and you do not have to go through this process alone. Legal counsel can review the case and help you fight these charges.