In this day and age, having even a minor criminal record can negatively impact your life for years after you have completed your sentence. Convictions on your record can make it difficult or impossible to get hired for a job, find good housing, pursue higher education and get access to federal student aid. In short, criminal convictions continue to unfairly punish offenders –sometimes for life. And this is no small problem. Some 4.3 million Georgians have a criminal conviction on their records.
Thankfully, Georgia lawmakers have finally put some relief measures in place, allowing certain offenders to have their criminal records restricted and sealed, so that they can move on with their lives. Gov. Kemp recently signed SB 288, which makes Georgia the 43rd state to pass an expungement law.
How it Works and Eligibility
Once the law is enacted in January 2021, you can petition the court to seal and restrict your criminal record for certain misdemeanor convictions. In order to be eligible, at least four years must have elapsed since the end of your sentence, and there can be no additional convictions or pending charges on your record.
Individuals convicted of felonies who were pardoned by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles can petition to have their records sealed as well, except when those felonies were related to violent crimes or sex crimes.
Who is Not Eligible?
The bill specifically sets out a list of offenses which cannot be sealed and restricted. Included in that list are convictions for drunk driving, family (domestic) violence, crimes against children and sex offenses.
What This Means For Offenders
SB 288 has been called the “second chance” bill. But for some, it is actually a long-overdue first chance. Imagine being convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge at age 18. Most people would consider this a minor offense. But that one mistake could shape a young person’s future, limiting employment, housing and educational opportunities.
If you have a criminal conviction on your record and believe you might be eligible for relief under SB 288, it may be helpful to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your legal options.