On January 1, 2021, Georgia joined 41 other states in allowing a person to remove certain convictions from their criminal record after a period of “conviction-free” years. With the passage of SB 288, an individual of any age may petition their original sentencing court to restrict and seal the record of a misdemeanor offense four years after they have completed their sentence. The individual can make this petition as long as they have not been convicted of a new offense in those four years and do not have any pending charges.
In deciding whether or not to grant the petition, the court will weigh the harm to the individual versus the public’s interest in knowing about the conviction. Accordingly, certain offenses are excluded, e.g., sex crimes against children, family violence battery, pimping, sexual battery, and DUI.
The law also provides significant liability protection for employers who engage in “second chance hiring.” With the passage of SB 288, Georgia employers who hire individuals with a criminal history who have had their record restricted and sealed will be protected from a negligent hiring or retention claim in a civil proceeding as long as the criminal record information does not bear a direct relationship to the underlying proceeding. Once sealed, an employee’s criminal history record information is no longer available to private persons or businesses. Proponents of this new law applaud that Georgia employers can now hire the candidate most qualified for the job without fear of liability.