02/23/2006 at 03:10 PM EST
Brad Renfro pleaded guilty in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday to one felony count of attempted possession of heroin and will enter a drug program.
Wearing tennis shoes and a suit, Renfro, 23, was sentenced to three years' probation and told to return to court on March 6 to begin his treatment through California's Proposition 36 program, a 2000 voter initiative that permits those convicted of first- and second-time nonviolent drug possession to receive treatment in lieu of incarceration.
Should Renfro violate the terms of his probation, he could face 18 years in prison, L.A.'s City News Service reports.
Renfro remains free on $10,000 bail, and his attorney told reporters outside the courtroom that the actor looks forward to putting this ordeal behind him.
"It's his first step in getting back to work and putting this all behind him," attorney Richard Kaplan said, according to KNBC-TV.
Renfro was one of 14 people arrested for allegedly attempting to purchase heroin in L.A.'s skid row section during a Dec. 22, 2005, police sting. Following his arrest, he voluntarily entered a live-in drug rehabilitation, which he has since left.
Film director Joel Schumacher discovered Renfro at age 12 and cast him in the 1994 John Grisham movie The Client (which also starred Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones). The following year, PEOPLE named the young screen hopeful one of its "Top 30 Under 30."
In 1998, Renfro was charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana, but avoided jail time thanks to a plea deal. Three years later, he was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale and sentenced to two years' probation for allegedly trying to steal a 45-ft. yacht with a friend.
In May 2001 he was arrested again on a charge of underage drinking. The next year he was charged with driving without license and public intoxication. Because the later charges violated the terms of his probation, Renfro was ordered into an alcohol rehab center.