Georgia Legislators Want Background Check Updates to First Offender Act

By Michael Klazema on 12/30/2015

Since taking office in 2011, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has made criminal justice reform a major focus of his administration. Legislators in the state's General Assembly have followed suit, introducing proposals and initiatives designed to make it easier for criminal offenders to reintegrate into society after serving their sentences. Currently, lawmakers in the state are working on initiatives that would allow drug offenders to keep their driver's licenses and receive food stamps—both privileges that are often taken away. Within the next few years, Deal and Georgia legislators also want to make a few other changes—including a re-visitation of the state's First Offender Act.

Currently, Georgia's First Offender Act allows offenders with no previous criminal records to keep their slates clean of convictions. Essentially, if a person is charged with a crime, pleads guilty, and serves their sentence, they can come out on the other side without a conviction. Not all offenders are eligible for this option, of course. Most of Deal's legislative efforts in the criminal justice reform area are meant to help non-violent offenders while reserving prison spots for violent criminals or sexual predators.

On paper, the First Offender Act essentially sounds like an automatic record sealing or expungement program for less severe criminal offenders. Every state offers opportunities for criminal offenders to expunge their records, based on completion of sentencing requirements and general good behavior. However, most states do not have a law like the First Offender Act, which allows first-time convicted criminals to plead guilty and get a clean record automatically, as long as they complete their sentences.

However, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the First Offender Act is a flawed system in that it doesn't fully seal or expunge a person's criminal record. On the contrary, those charges or convictions can still sometimes come up on background checks, thereby making it more difficult for ex-offenders to get jobs, apply for housing, and more. The issue is evidently "a bureaucratic thing" that can be blamed on unfinished or unfiled paperwork.

The Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which was assembled by Governor Deal, wants to refine the First Offender Act to make sure that people who take advantage of the law's provisions are having their records sealed. The records would still be there, and could be opened up again if an offender violated parole or committed a new crime. However, the main aim seems to be that those records would no longer show up on background checks run by private screening firms.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • June 20 Repeat background checks are becoming more common, with companies in India leading the charge. What does this trend look like, and how can employers embrace it now to stay ahead of the curve?
  • June 19

    Every federal job involves a background check of some kind. These background checks and how they are evaluated vary based on job, department, and security clearance level.

  • June 18

  • June 14 Ban the box laws aim to improve opportunities for employment. Could they have the opposite effect instead?
  • June 13 Jacobs Petroleum Products is a regional petroleum company that operates throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland. Apart from their employees carrying much responsibility and have frequent contact with customers, the company’s hiring also tends to be segmented since individual store managers are responsible for hiring talent for their own stores. In this employment landscape, Jacobs Petroleum Products needed a reliable and effective way to screen its new hires for criminal infractions and other red flags.
  • June 12

    The University of Wisconsin System may tweak its hiring and reference check processes. The potential changes come after one of UW’s assistant deans was accused of sexual harassment.

  • June 07 Stories of abuse by coaches in youth sports leagues continue to crop up around the country, but rules and guidelines remain patchy and enforcement is often lacking. The struggle to implement an effective system continues nationwide.
  • June 07 Financial background checks, usually referred to as credit history checks, can be an effective way to find out if a candidate is fit to handle accounts, financial data, and other assets at your business.
  • June 06 The Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute recently commissioned a survey to find out how willing employers were to hire people with criminal records. The study indicates that managers, HR professionals, and employees themselves are becoming more comfortable with the idea of hiring and working with ex-offenders.
  • June 04 Are fingerprint background checks the gold standard for employee screening, or are they overhyped? We look at some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding these checks.