The Expansion Of Expungement: Ga Senate Bill 288
There is fantastic news and a new law on the way for anyone carrying a Georgia Criminal History. And that is a staggeringly high number of people; 40% of adults living in Georgia have at some point been to prison, jail, or served probation or parole. It is the highest rate in the country and as such, relief from that record is long overdue.
Enter Georgia Senate Bill 288, a brand-new legislative effort that passed unanimously through both the Georgia House and Senate following an excellent effort from the Georgia Justice Project (GJP) and the Second Chance for Georgia Campaign. This new law, once signed by Governor Kemp, will align Georgia with 41 other states that currently allow a person to remove certain convictions from their criminal record in an effort to have better opportunities with employment, housing, and many other benefits lost by having a permanent criminal record.
This is a huge win for Georgians. The previous sealing and expungement laws were very strict, but with these new legislations in place there will be a significant widening of select misdemeanor offenses that can be removed from a person’s Georgia Criminal History after a specific period of time. More on that below.
Ga Senate Bill 288: The Nuts And Bolts
Georgia Senate Bill 288 is going to be life- changing for millions of Americans with a Georgia Criminal History. Once in effect, SB 288 will allow individuals with certain misdemeanor convictions to petition the court to have their misdemeanor record restricted and sealed off their record. This process can take place only after four years from the completion of their sentence. Additionally, the individual must provide proof that they have no new convictions or pending charges within that four-year period following the completion of their sentence.
There are some misdemeanor offenses that, unfortunately, will be excluded from the restriction and sealing provided from SB 288. These offenses include misdemeanor sex crimes, crimes against children, crimes that carry the family violence tag, and DUIs. This means that any misdemeanor offense that falls into these categories will continue to remain on a person’s record permanently, unless further laws are passed in the future changing this policy.
There are a vast number of misdemeanor categories that do qualify. Misdemeanor possession charges, theft charges such as shoplifting, and simple assaults and batteries not tagged as family violence are some common categories that will benefit from SB 288 and be eligible to come off someone’s permanent record. This bill will finally give any individual facing these misdemeanors a true second chance by allowing them to process these charges off their record after four years with no incident.
Ga Senate Bill 288: The Bigger Picture
There is a bigger implication for Georgia Senate Bill 288. Previously before SB 288 one of the only ways, outside of pretrial diversion programs, to remove a misdemeanor conviction from a Georgia Criminal Record was to use First Offender Status. This was an extremely inefficient method because in many circumstances retaining the option to use First Offender Status for a potential felony charge in the future was far more valuable than using that once in a lifetime resource for a misdemeanor offense.
The problem was that even a misdemeanor offense could cause a person significant problems finding meaningful employment, housing, and other benefits, especially so in Georgia. SB 288 is the remedy to that problem. Another interesting implication of SB 288 is its ability to combine with the application of Retroactive First Offender Status to a person’s Georgia Criminal History.
Someone who successfully completed a felony sentence, but did not use First Offender Status, would often be eliminated from Retroactive First Offender Eligibility due to having additional offenses on their record. Often these additional offenses would be misdemeanor in nature. Someone who finds themself holding a felony conviction and a misdemeanor conviction that qualifies for SB 288 can now hypothetically use a combination of Retroactive First Offender Status and SB 288 to eliminate both the felony and the misdemeanor from their record.
Ga Senate Bill 288: Final Thoughts
The implications and applications of Georgia Senate Bill 288 are huge for anyone qualifying. There are millions of Americans carrying a Georgia Criminal History that will now have opportunities to have a true second chance going forward. Better employment and housing opportunities are just the start of the benefits afforded to those who can seal or restrict a criminal charge from their record.
We are excited to work with anyone who now qualifies to restrict and expunge their records using SB 288. We recommend that you call us to discuss your case specifics now so that when SB 288 goes into effect you can immediately take advantage of its application to move confidently forward in life.