How the Second Chance Law Affects You

How the Second Chance Law Affects You

A senate bill (SB 288) has been passed that will affect Georgians starting next year. Here’s how the second chance law affects you:

From January 1, 2021, SB 288 will become effective. This legislation, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, will enable rehabilitated Georgians to petition the court to have certain misdemeanor convictions restricted and sealed.

There are some stipulations and exclusions. Certain offenses, like sex crimes, family violence, crimes against children, and DUIs are not eligible.

An individual petitioning to have a conviction sealed is also required to not have any pending or new convictions. They may have to have to wait for four years from the date of the conviction too.

However, if someone meets all the requirements, they will be able to “remove” or expunge certain misdemeanors from their records. Effectively giving them a “second chance”.

There are a number of obvious plus points to SB 288. Most notably, presenting additional opportunities available to individuals without a criminal record. This bill will no doubt prompt millions of Georgians to question whether or not the convictions on their records can be sealed.

Why Is It Important for Georgians To Have a Second Chance?

Thousands of Georgians wanting to work are being held back by their criminal history. 4.3 million people in Georgia have a criminal history – that’s the highest rate of correctional control in the country.

Under the current legislation, almost all convictions will stay permanently on a person’s criminal record. There is currently nothing a Georgian resident can do to remove, expunge, seal, or restrict their convictions.

That is, until SB 288 comes into effect in January of next year.

This bill isn’t introducing anything new that a lot of states and citizens access the U.S. haven’t already seen. This new law brings Georgia in line with 41 other states. These states already allow rehabilitated individuals with a criminal record to remove certain convictions.

This process is new to Georgia, however. State Representative Karen Bennett, chairperson of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus said;

It allows Georgians to receive a second chance at transforming their lives and moving beyond mistakes made in the past. Our state needs to embrace restorative and redemptive policy. Acknowledging all life is precious and valuable.

Benefits for Employers and Employees

The introduction of bill 288 opens up new possibilities for employers as well as potential employees. The Metro Atlanta Chamber, which represents businesses, colleges and universities, and non-profits across the 29 counties that make up the metro area region, have vocalized their support for the bill.

They have previously raised awareness of the struggles some employers have faced filling positions due to criminal records being a barrier preventing some individuals from applying.

Amy Lancaster-King, Director of Workforce Development, Metro Atlanta Chamber, said this move contributes towards;

Helping returning citizens gain employment to fill open positions is good for business and for the community. Removing barriers to employment grows tax dollars, reduces crime and recidivism costs, and helps our economy and communities thrive. The Metro Atlanta Chamber is proud to be part of the team that helped move the Second Chances bill forward.

A number of the largest companies in the state; such as Verizon, McKenney’s, Newell Brands, Home Depot, and Coca-Cola all wrote a letter of support for the bill as it introduces increased liability protection for them when engaging in second-chance hiring.

What we know from other states that allow expunging records is that it helps citizens gain employment, it’s positive for the community and for businesses, and it increases tax dollars.

All things that move the needle in the right direction regarding improving the state’s economy and helping communities thrive.

Expungement and “Record Sealing” Basics

The introduction of SB 288 represents hope and new beginnings for thousands of Georgia residents. It does, however, raise a lot of questions as most Georgian residents are not familiar with expungement laws.

Expungement is a court-ordered process. The process involves petitioning a criminal conviction or record to a judge to have the conviction “sealed”. Basically, this means the conviction didn’t happen in the eyes of the law – although it’s often still visible to certain law officials.

If successful, you do not have to disclose the conviction ever happened. The record will also not appear if employers or other agencies are running criminal history checks on that individual.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean the conviction is permanently erased without a trace.

Not just due to the fact that the conviction happened and there will always be some kind of audit trail. But also because in most cases, the record will be accessible by certain government agencies, including law enforcement and the criminal courts.

This is why expunged convictions are “sealed”, as opposed to being “erased”. As far as your day-to-day life goes, you don’t need to disclose your conviction. Although the conviction can still be evidence or proof of a prior conviction.

How Do You Know If You’ll Be Eligible To Have Convictions Sealed?

The only way to know for sure if you’ll be eligible to have your convictions sealed when SB 288 comes into effect is to talk with a lawyer experienced working with the court system in the state of Georgia.

Here at Arora Law, we have a team of experienced lawyers covering a wide range of practice areas. We represent clients accused of white-collar crimes, drug offenses, DUIs, appeals, and more.

If you’d like to find out more, please give us a call on (404) 609-4664 or contact us here. We’d be happy to book an appointment at a time that’s convenient for you to evaluate your case.


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