Expungement could soon be considerably easier for Georgia citizens. A bill recently passed by the Georgia State Senate would expand the circumstances under which Georgians with criminal records could apply for their records to be sealed or expunged.
The legislation could be a game-changer for Georgia, which is currently one of the stricter states for criminal expungement. Right now, Georgia law only allows for a very small list of criminal matters to be expunged—including vacated cases, dismissed cases, and certain low-level misdemeanors.
Instead of adding convictions to the expungement possibility list, Senate Bill 288 would reshape the rules of how sealing, restricting, or removing a record works in the state of Georgia. An ex-offender would be eligible to apply for expungement if they: 1) had served their full court-mandated sentence; 2) could show at least four years of good behavior without additional criminal behavior; and 3) did not have a severe enough criminal history to disqualify them.
Anyone able to meet the three criteria listed would be eligible to petition the Georgia court to have their records sealed or expunged. Offenders convicted of severe felonies—including violent offenses or sexual crimes—would still not be eligible for expungement, nor would repeat criminal offenders.
The bill received considerable support in the Georgia State Senate, garnering a unanimous 49-0 approval vote. The next step for the bill is the Georgia House of Representatives. An approval there would send the legislation to the desk of the governor.
The legislation reflects a push for expungement reform across the country. If Georgia passes the law, it will become the 41st state to adopt legislation that makes expungement more accessible to ex-offenders. Other states are still fighting for change: in Connecticut, legislators are pushing for policies that would enable automatic expungement of certain convictions.
Similar to Georgia’s bill, Connecticut’s “clean slate” legislation would require ex-offenders to meet certain prerequisites to be eligible for expungement. However, there is debate about what those prerequisites should be.
One version of the bill, proposed by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, would require ex-offenders to serve their time and remain conviction-free for seven years. Individuals meeting those requirements would then have their records erased, but only if their convictions were for minor misdemeanors. A more aggressive version of the bill, proposed by State Senator Gary Winfield, would keep the same seven-year requirement as Lamont’s but would open up the eligibility for expungement to a broader range of crimes, including most misdemeanors as well as some Class C, D, or E felonies. The felonies would be removed from public view but would remain accessible to law enforcement for at least several years.
At backgroundchecks.com, we offer resources designed to help ex-offenders determine whether they are eligible for criminal record expungement. Employers can access our MyClearStart program to help candidates or employees unlock better opportunities, get full benefits, and more. If you have any questions about how this program works, feel free to contact us today.