Second chances are a fairly common occurrence in life. We give them out and use them freely, because we know making mistakes is part of human nature.
Our legal system isn’t quite as idealistic though.
Forgive and forget hasn’t always been the State of Georgia’s modus operandi.
For someone arrested or charged with a crime, the constant reminder of their past is staring back at them on every job application they submit or loan they apply for. According to the Georgia Justice Project, more than a third of the state’s population currently finds themselves in this situation as a result of their criminal record.
No one knows this reality better than Whitehurst, Blackburn and Warren partner Joe Cargile.
“Clients frequently come into our office with questions about their record,” explained Cargile. “The phrase that is usually used is ‘I’m looking to get my record expunged.’ In Georgia we actually call it record ‘restriction.’”
Earlier this year, new procedures were signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp expanding access to the state’s record restriction and sealing process. According to Cargile, there are several instances where the State of Georgia agrees that offenders deserve a second chance, or a record restriction. This new law, SB 288, opens the door for more of these conversations to begin to take hold.
“The legislature has put into place several different avenues to give someone who has made a mistake the chance to sort of get a mulligan, or another shot at it,” explained Cargile.
While it isn’t required that you utilize your attorney to initiate this process, Cargile advises that the record restricting process can be both arduous and complex.
“I’d recommend you come in and talk to an attorney about how to specifically make your record restriction happen,” said Cargile. “The legislature recognizes that sometimes someone makes a mistake and there should be a system in place to get that off their record. We can help you through that process.”
A record restriction is exactly what it sounds like. In order to see your “full” record, the viewer would need to have a certain level of authorization. For example, once a record has been restricted, many offenses wouldn’t come up on background checks for job applications, but would be present under law enforcement scrutiny. This new law also encourages employers to engage in “second chance” hiring by offering liability protections.
Many violent crimes, including murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and family violence, are excluded from Georgia’s record restriction law.