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

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The 2nd Chance Act in Georgia provides opportunities for rehabilitation and reduced sentences for nonviolent offenders. Learn more about eligibility now.

 

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 April 25, 2023.

 

What Is the Second Chance Program for Felons in Georgia?

Georgia’s second chance Act, also known as Georgia Senate Bill 288, is an important piece of reformative legislation.

Sen. Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia) penned the bill with 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 Second Chance Act seeks to provide opportunities for rehabilitation and reduced sentences for nonviolent offenders. It makes it possible for defendants convicted of certain crimes to have their criminal records sealed upon successful completion of probation.

To be eligible for this program, you must not have been convicted of a serious violent felony or sex offense. Examples of serious violent felonies that might make you ineligible include murder, armed robbery with a deadly weapon, and rape.

The Objective of the 2nd Chance Act in Georgia

The 2nd Chance law became effective on January 1, 2021. It allows individuals to petition to remove certain criminal convictions from their criminal records. Its goal is to provide opportunities for rehabilitation and reduce sentences, particularly for nonviolent offenders.

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 nonviolent misdemeanor offenses 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. The first-offender treatment also sealed one’s record if one pleads guilty to a first-time charge.

However, before SB 288, a 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 was that they had 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. We can help you get your record sealed depending on your unique circumstances. 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 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 appear 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 can see new convictions that don’t qualify under SB 288.

  • Certain convictions will be viewable if you apply to companies that serve vulnerable populations.

  • 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 is 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 involves the following:

  • 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. 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.

Ineligibilities Under the 2nd Chance Act

The 2nd Chance Act offers hope for many, but it’s important to recognize that certain offenses fall outside its scope. Notably, crimes such as DUI, sex crimes, family violence, and specific categories of theft crimes are not eligible for expungement under Georgia law.

This exclusion underscores the state’s commitment to maintaining stringent penalties for these serious offenses, reflecting their potential impact on victims and society at large.

For those affected, understanding these limitations is crucial, as pursuing expungement in these cases would be legally futile.

Each ineligible offense carries its own set of consequences and legal complexities, making professional legal guidance a vital resource for accurate navigation through Georgia’s criminal justice system.

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 file your case in 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 handle the paperwork and support you throughout the proceedings. We can even work with you to obtain a pardon for qualifying felonies.

Philip Kim Law Firm 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 you and your family deserve.

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Philip Kim Law, P.C.
368 West Pike Street, Suite 203
Lawrenceville, GA 30046
(678) 203-6968
Fax: (678) 273-3501
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