Understanding the new erasure law in Georgia

If you have been convicted of a criminal offense in Georgia in the past, it has been very difficult, if not impossible, to remove those convictions from your background and criminal record. This has caused problems for countless people, especially those looking for work, housing, work permits and more.

A key exception was first offenders and parole, but these laws typically deal with crimes and can only be applied once. If a person has used the first offender and is subsequently convicted of a crime, that crime is essentially there for life.

A few years ago, Georgia passed a retroactive first offender law that allows persons with a felony conviction who could have been convicted as first offenders if they had known about it, to apply to the court retrospectively for first offender recognition. Today, Bill SB 288 expands the deletion options for many people with criminal records.

The new law

In addition to these criminal justice reforms, Governor Kemp signed into law SB 288 late last year. This law provides for a potential deletion of records for qualifying misdemeanor and felony convictions. Beginning January 1, 2021, many misdemeanor and some felony convictions will be eligible for record restriction and sealing, effectively removing them from public and private background checks.

For qualifying misdemeanor convictions, a person may apply to the court to limit up to two convictions four years after the completion of the sentence. A sentence is fully terminated when all prison time has been served and probation has ended. This law applies to all offenses except those specifically listed under OCGA 35-3-37(j)(4), which includes traffic offenses (such as DUI), domestic violence, sex crimes and more.

For felony convictions, a person must seek and receive a clemency for the offense before they can apply to the court for cancellation. This step obviously complicates the process, but a large number of crimes are still available for deletion, excluding crimes such as murder, armed robbery, rape, child abuse, sexual exploitation of a minor, and more.

bottom line

SB 288 is a major step forward for criminal justice reform in the state of Georgia and greatly expands the ease of deletion for many with a criminal record. If you have questions about whether you are entitled to relief under the new Deletion Act, call our office today and schedule a free consultation.