Everything You Need to Know About the 2nd Chance Act in Georgia

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The 2nd Chance Act in Georgia was recently expanded, giving certain residents with criminal convictions the opportunity to remove their convictions from their records and pursue gainful employment. Here’s what the new law could mean for you.


Author: Philip Kim, Founder, Philip Kim Law, P.C.

Defense lawyer Philip Kim has committed his career to standing up for the accused, and protecting the rights and reputations of his valued clients. If you face criminal charges in Georgia, we can provide you with the skilled, effective defense representation you need.

Published on July 19, 2021, last updated on August 03, 2021.


The Objective of the 2nd Chance Act in Georgia

The 2nd Chance Act in Georgia, also known as Georgia Senate Bill 288, is an important piece of reformative legislation.

Sen. Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia) penned the bill with the support of sponsor Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens). After it received unanimous support from the House and Senate, Governor Brian Kemp signed it on August 5, 2020.

The 2nd Chance law became effective on January 1, 2021. Essentially, it allows individuals to petition to remove certain misdemeanor and felony convictions from their criminal records. The bill also offers significant liability protection to Georgia employers who hire individuals with expunged records. This is designed to strengthen employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records and allow them to create better lives for themselves post-incarceration.

Previous Second Chance Programs in Georgia

A 2013 law allowed individuals with criminal backgrounds to petition the removal of dismissed cases and other non-convictions from their records. There was also first offender treatment that sealed one’s record if they plead guilty to a first-time charge.

However, before SB 288, few second-chance programs in Georgia helped rehabilitated individuals find work.

This lack of legislation caused a vicious cycle among those facing certain offenses. For instance, one could serve their sentence and get out early on good behavior. But when they went to find work, all Georgia employers would see is that they have a conviction on their background check. Not getting a job makes it hard to integrate back into society and can even increase the chances of committing a new offense.

Doug Ammar (executive director of the Georgia Justice Project) and other advocates recognized the need for change. Their Second Chance for Georgia campaign fought to ensure that job opportunities weren’t automatically restricted because of criminal charges.

After the Georgia Justice Project gained momentum, Georgia House and Senate state leaders unanimously approved the Second Chance bill.

Once Georgia Gov. Kemp signed it, this current Georgia law served as a huge milestone as it ensures employers hire those with criminal histories. Unlike past legislation, it protects companies from the liability concerns that often come with second-chance hiring, removing many of the barriers that had previously deterred employers from hiring people with criminal backgrounds.

Now, the team at Philip Kim Law helps people expunge their misdemeanors and work towards a brighter future thanks to this bill. Depending on your unique circumstances, we may be able to help you get your record sealed. Contact us today to learn more.

Georgia Record Restriction vs Expungement

SB 288 mentions the word “expungement.” However, this word is somewhat misleading as it doesn’t mean that your charges will disappear.

A more accurate term is “Georgia record restriction.” If a court determines that your convictions qualify under SB 288, your criminal record will be restricted and sealed.

With your record restricted, your criminal history won’t show up on background checks. Because you don’t have to worry about employers fearing the repercussions of negligent hiring, you improve your chances of getting a job. You also improve your chances of qualifying for housing as landlords won’t see your criminal history.

Record restriction has positively impacted many families, just as the Georgia Justice Project intended it to. However, when you get your record sealed, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Employers will be able to see new convictions that don’t qualify under SB 288.
  • If you apply to companies that serve vulnerable populations, certain convictions will be viewable.
  • Your criminal history will remain accessible to those in the criminal justice system (police officers, prosecutors, etc.).

Qualifying for Record Restriction Under the Second Chance Act

Georgia has the country’s highest correctional control rate. As a result, much of the state’s population seeks to restrict their criminal records to improve employment opportunities.

The Second Chance Act serves as a beacon of hope for many individuals and families. Sealing a person’s record prevents increasing access to employment, housing, and even higher education.

However, you must realize that the new expungement law has restrictions. See below to determine if you qualify for expungement.

If you still have questions about your case, contact a criminal defense attorney at Philip Kim Law today.


Misdemeanor Convictions

If you have a single misdemeanor (or several misdemeanors relating to a single incident), a court may seal your criminal record if:

  • You don’t have any pending charges.
  • The completion of your sentence was over four years ago.
  • You have no convictions between the end of your sentence and now (barring non-serious traffic offenses).

Note that you can only get certain misdemeanor convictions restricted under SB 288. However, a court will not seal your record if the conviction involved:

  • Crimes against children
  • Family violence
  • Sex crimes
  • DUI


Felony Convictions

If you have a felony conviction, a court may seal your record if you get a pardon from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Note that serious violent felonies and sex offenses do not qualify under SB 288.


Minor in Possession Convictions

This new law protects minors facing convictions for underage drinking or possessing a fake ID. The court may order rehabilitation probation and defer the case for those who request record restrictions during sentencing. If all goes well, the individual may avoid a conviction altogether.

How to Get Your Second Chance

If you face barriers to employment and housing because of your past, you may wonder how to get your second chance.

Know that the Second Chance Law won’t automatically seal your record. You’ll need to file a petition and make your case to a court. The judge will consider if knowing about your conviction is for the good of the public’s interest. If they determine that the public has a right to know, your criminal history will continue showing up on background checks.

Because you can only petition for record restriction twice per conviction, you’ll want to get it right the first time around. Our professional legal team may be able to help you expunge your misdemeanor or felony conviction. If you qualify, we will take care of the paperwork and support you throughout the proceedings. We can even work with you to obtain a pardon for qualifying felonies.

Philip Kim Law is ready to use this criminal justice reform to help you turn your life around. Improve your chances of expungement by contacting us for reliable legal advice. With us by your side, you could get the second chance that you and your family deserve.

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Philip Kim Law, P.C.
368 West Pike Street, Suite 203
Lawrenceville, GA 30046
(678) 201-0496
Fax: (678) 273-3501
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