For over a decade, Georgia Justice Project (GJP) has worked to expand record restriction (commonly known as “expungement”) in Georgia. We successfully advocated for several changes in the law since 2013, but a comprehensive solution for convictions was elusive. But those efforts culminated last week when Governor Brian Kemp signed a “second chance” bill – SB 288 – into law! This law allows more Georgians to restrict and seal records of certain convictions from their criminal history.
So what will this mean for the many Georgians with a criminal record? Who will be eligible for record restriction under this new law? Below are some fast facts you need to know.
- The new law takes effect January 1, 2021. This means individuals won’t be able to submit to restrict & seal their conviction under this new law until that date.
- Under the new law, individuals can petition the court to restrict and seal certain convictions from their criminal record, meaning they will no longer appear on public and private background checks for employers. This is a first for Georgia – before this law, almost all convictions stayed on a person’s record for life.
- SB 288 doesn’t cover all convictions, but it does allow an individual to restrict and seal up to two misdemeanor convictions from their criminal history four years after their sentence is complete. There are some exceptions to what those convictions can be.
- Some felonies are included as well – if a person received a pardon for a felony offense, they can petition a judge to restrict and seal the record of that offense from their criminal record.
- The process requires a petition with a judge, and then the judge signs off on whether or not they will allow the record to be sealed. Records remain available for law enforcement.
- SB 288 also provides protections for employers who engage in second chance hiring.
Although there’s more work to be done, this law is a critical first step in the right direction toward reducing barriers to opportunity for people with a criminal record. GJP will be developing written materials and webinars about the new law and how you can help others access a second chance – more information to come soon.
This is only the beginning – GJP will carry this momentum forward, and in the coming months and years we will build support for legislation that will reduce barriers to occupational licensing, expand expungement of felony convictions, reform Georgia’s probation practices, reduce driver’s license suspensions for non-driving offenses, and improve child support guidelines for low income families.
We’re preparing for the long and important road ahead – thank you for getting us this far. Together, we can push for a more just and fair Georgia for returning citizens.