Just over a year ago, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 288, a measure that expands the ability for individuals to seal certain criminal convictions from public view. The expanded rules have been on the books since Jan. 1, 2021.
The process is commonly called expungement, but many people who have already paid their debt to society don't know how to take the proper steps to have their records sealed. As a result, many have run into barriers for employment, housing and other benefits afforded to those without a criminal record.
The Georgia Justice Project, a group that pushed for the legislation, is hoping an Oct. 4 virtual town hall will give those North Georgia individuals with a criminal record more information on SB 228. Officials with the group, in partnership with Georgia Legal Services and the State Administrative Office of the Courts, will host the online meeting especially for those in the Northeastern Judicial Circuit coverage area - Hall and Dawson counties.
Very basically, the prior version of the law allowed very limited cases to be expunged, according to information on the Georgia Justice Project website. Before 2021, only charges that did not result in a conviction and certain misdemeanor convictions for those under age 21 were eligible for expungement.
"SB 288 removes the age limitation for most offenses by allowing an individual to to petition the court to restrict and seal up to two misdemeanor convictions from their record and any offense that has been pardoned (as long as it was not a serious violent felony or sexual offense) from their criminal record," the website states. "SB 288 also includes liability protections for employers who hire individuals with a criminal history to encourage employers to engage in second chance hiring."
Under SB 288, law enforcement would still have access to all criminal records, even those restricted from public view.
The Oct. 4 town hall will offer information on eligibility for criminal record expungement and also guide individuals through the process of petitioning the court for expungement.
To register for the town hall event on Oct. 4, follow this link.