In 1968, Georgia passed the First Offender Act, sometimes referred to as the “second chance” law. Under the first offender act, individuals are allowed to avoid conviction if they’ve never been convicted of a felony before (with the exception of certain severe crimes like a serious violent offense or sexual assault).
These individuals are referred to as “first offenders,” since they’ve never committed a serious offense before.
If you plead guilty under first offender status, you are never formally convicted, and you will likely get off with a reduced sentence or even simply probation. It also opens up the possibility for the offender to apply for record restriction (previously known as “expungement”) after their sentencing, which would hide all records of their criminal activity from the public.
First offender status isn’t automatic.
You have to apply for it, and even then, it’s up to the discretion of the judge whether to grant it or not. But if you’re never even informed that this is a possibility, how are you supposed to take advantage of it?