The First Offender Act, often referred to as Georgia’s “second chance law” was first enacted in 1968 and allows certain people charged with their first offense to avoid both a conviction and a public record if they successfully complete his or her sentence. The law also says that public and private employers cannot deny a job on the basis of a first offender case. Unfortunately, however, many who are eligible for first offender treatment are not informed of such when the case is resolved. In addition, those who are sentenced under the First Offender Act are not getting a real second chance because there is still a public record and Georgia courts have sided with employers who denied someone a job because of a first offender case.
If passed, HB 310 will require that all Georgians who are eligible for a second chance under the First Offender Act are informed before it is too late and that those who were not informed can still get their second chance.
HB 310 does not make first offender records private or prevent employment discrimination on the basis of the case. The Council on Criminal Justice Reform has recommended a First Offender Study Committee to take these and other issues up in the summer of 2015.