How Georgia’s “Second Chance” Law Makes Expunging Convictions Easier
There is good news for Georgians who wish to remove the stigma of a criminal conviction from their permanent record. The “second chance” law, which became effective on January 1, 2021, allows people who were convicted of non-violent misdemeanors to petition a court to order the conviction expunged.
Under Georgia’s prior law — which was one of the most restrictive in the U.S. — the only way to get such a conviction removed was to obtain a pardon. Other states typically allow misdemeanors and certain felonies to be expunged after passage of a set period of time without repeat offenses.
Social justice advocates contend that the second chance law will help remove the burden of carrying a criminal record for people who have been law abiding since serving their sentences. The existence of a criminal record can affect the ability of an individual to get a job, apply for public housing, obtain credit or get a professional license.
Finding employment is often the most difficult challenge. Many employers may be reluctant to hire a person with a criminal record, fearing that the person could have a potential for dishonesty, that other employees might be reluctant to work with them or that knowledge of the employee’s criminal past might discourage customers from patronizing the business.
Another major concern of employers about hiring a person with a criminal past is civil liability. If the employee with a criminal record injures a patron or another employee while driving the company truck or operating a forklift, the employer might fear that the employee’s criminal history could be seen to bear on their responsibility and on the employer’s exercise of judgment in hiring them.
The second chance act addresses this issue. It specifically bars the use of the employee’s criminal history in any civil lawsuit against the employer if any of these factors apply:
- The criminal history is not relevant to the civil suit or the veracity of the employee.
- The criminal history was expunged prior to the act that led to the suit.
- The criminal history is an arrest or charge that did not result in a conviction.
At the law firm of James D. Michael, P.C., we provide effective defense in all types of criminal cases, including seeking post-conviction relief. If you or a loved one has a non-violent misdemeanor conviction in your past, we may be able to get that off your record. You can speak with our criminal defense attorney by calling our Decatur office at 404-857-4059 or contact us online.