You need to review Georgia's first offender law.
O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60 states:
(a) Upon a verdict or plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere, but before an adjudication of guilt, in the case of a defendant who has not been previously convicted of a felony, the court may, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant:
(1) Defer further proceeding and place the defendant on probation as provided by law; or
(2) Sentence the defendant to a term of confinement as provided by law.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 42-8-62, "upon fulfillment of the terms of probation, upon release by the court prior to the termination of the period thereof, or upon release from confinement, the defendant shall be discharged without court adjudication of guilt. Except for the registration requirements under the state sexual offender registry and except as otherwise provided in Code Section 42-8- 63.1, the discharge shall completely exonerate the defendant of any criminal purpose and shall not affect any of his or her civil rights or liberties; and the defendant shall not be considered to have a criminal conviction.
As you can see, the first offender program prevents you from being convicted of any crime. This is conditioned upon you successfully completing a probationary program of approximately one year (which could also include restitution, public service, and fines of up to $1000). If you were to fail at probation you could serve up to one year in jail, however I don't see that as a real risk for you. You seem to be very concerned about this matter which indicates you will do quite well on probation.
You have not ruined your life. Make finding a good lawyer a priority and get them to work on setting up this deal for you. While pretrial remedial measures (such as counseling, education, etc) can be good, your first priority must be obtaining good representation that can help you minimize the damage done by this mistake.
Please reply if I can help further.
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Edited by JD on 4/13/2010 at 1:40 AM EST