Georgia Justice Project works with state legislators, partner organizations, and other stakeholders to draft bills and advocate for laws that reduce the number of people under correctional control and reduce barriers to reentry for the 4.5 million people who have a Georgia criminal record.
Eliminated Automatic Suspensions for Missing Traffic Court – Ga. Code Ann. O.C.G.A. § 17-6-11 & O.C.G.A. § 40-5-56
To help address the tens of thousands of driver’s license suspensions that happen in Georgia each year as a result of a missed traffic court date, Georgia Justice Project worked with the Council of Municipal Court Judges, the Council of Probate Court Judges, GACDL, and stakeholders in the business community to reduce automatic suspensions and the loss of employment that can result from a suspension.
This law provides that judges now have the discretion to stop a suspension from moving forward when someone Fails to Appear. In addition, judges may now reinstate a license that was suspended due to Failure to Appear at any time – full adjudication of the underlying case and payment of all fines and fees is no longer a predicate to reinstatement. Finally, judges may waive the DDS fee associated with reinstating a license that was suspended due to Failure to Appear.
Early Termination of Probation – Ga. Code Ann. § 17-10-1 and § 42-8-37
Expands eligibility for early termination of felony probation by creating a pathway for early termination that all individuals can access after serving three years of probation. An individual qualifies for early termination if they have (1) no new arrests; (2) no probation revocations in the last twenty-four months; and (3) paid all restitution. If an individual qualifies, their probation officer will submit an order to terminate on their behalf to the sentencing Court. In certain circumstances, the probation officer will also submit a progress report stating whether the individual meets the qualifications for early termination. The Court must grant the order unless the prosecutor or the Judge requests a hearing within thirty days. If a hearing is requested, it must be set within ninety days. Also allows individuals who do not meet the previously listed criteria to pursue early termination of their felony probation sentence by filing a motion, and a hearing must be set within ninety days of submitting the motion.
Restriction and Sealing of Certain Convictions – Ga. Code Ann. § 35-3-37
Significantly expands expungement in Georgia by providing for restriction and sealing of certain misdemeanor and felony convictions, and provides protections for employers who engage in second chance hiring. An individual may petition the court to restrict and seal up to two misdemeanor convictions from their record four years after they have completed their sentence as long as they have not been convicted of a new offense in those four years. Certain misdemeanor offenses are excluded. Also, allows an individual to petition to restrict and seal pardoned felony offenses, except serious violent felonies and serious sex offenses. Law enforcement retains access to the records. Also provides liability protection for employers when criminal history information is not relevant, has been pardoned or restricted, or concerns an arrest that did not lead to a conviction.
Restriction and Sealing Revision – Ga. Code Ann. § 35-3-37(j) & 42-8-66
Allows all special restriction petitions, such as Youthful Offender, to be filed in the court of original jurisdiction. Additionally, Retroactive First Offender will be filed in the court that resolved the charges and no fees can be charged. These revisions reduce the financial burden on applicants and simplify the process.
Behavioral Incentive Dates Expansion – Ga. Code Ann. § 17-10-1
Expands eligibility for early termination of probation to include individuals who have split sentences (incarceration followed by probation). Also requires the court to consider an individual’s financial ability to repay restitution when considering early termination.
Program and Treatment Completion Certificates – Ga. Code Ann. § 42-3-2
The Department of Community Supervision may now issue Program and Treatment Completion Certificates to people on probation, which create a presumption of due care in hiring or leasing for the certificate holder. In 2014, the certificates were made available to people coming out of prison who had completed certain programs (O.C.G.A. § 42-2-5.2), and now will be available to people on probation as well.
Behavioral Incentive Date for Probation Termination – Ga. Code Ann. § 17-10-1.19(a)
Allows individuals convicted of their first felony offense to have their probation terminated after three years if all conditions are met.
Retroactive First Offender Clarification – Ga. Code Ann. § 42-8-66
Clarifies that the retroactive first offender statute, which went into effect in 2015, applies to all eligible cases since 1968.
Removal of Food Stamp Ban Ga. Code Ann. § 49-4-22
Lifts Georgia’s lifetime ban on food stamps for individuals with felony drug convictions.
Sealing of First Offender Records Ga. Code Ann. § 42-8-62.1
Grants judges the authority to restrict first offender records at the time of sentencing instead of waiting until the sentence is complete and to seal court and jail records for successful first offenders, ensuring that Georgia’s First Offender Act provides a real second chance in the digital age.
Occupational Licensing Reform Ga. Code Ann. § 43-1-19
Improves the way applicants are considered for state occupational licenses by applying Ban the Box principles. Licensing boards are required to consider a conviction’s relevance to the license sought, the time elapsed since the conviction, and the nature of the conviction.
Retroactive Reinstatement of Driver’s Licenses Revoked for a Drug Offense Ga. Code. Ann. § 40-5-75(g) and § 40-5-9
Individuals convicted of non-vehicle related drug offenses prior to 2014, in addition to those convicted after 2014, no longer face automatic driver’s license suspension. Additionally, indigent individuals will qualify for waived or reduced reinstatement fees.
Tax Incentive for Parolee Hiring – Ga.Code Ann. § 48-7-40.31
Encourages hiring of individuals on parole by providing employers a $2,500 income tax credit for each parolee hired.
Ban the Box – Executive Order signed February 23, 2015
This fair hiring initiative removes questions about criminal history from the original employment application for state employment and postpones the background check until the interview stage. Employers may only screen for relevant criminal records.
First Offender Eligibility – Ga. Code Ann. § 42-8-61
Eligible individuals must be informed about their first offender eligibility either by their attorney, if represented, or the court if not represented.
Retroactive Remedy for First Offender Eligibility – Ga. Code Ann. § 42-8-66
With the consent of the prosecutor, individuals who would have been eligible for First Offender at the time of their sentencing, but were not aware of their eligibility may be retroactively sentenced as a First Offender.
Georgia Fair Business Practices Act – Ga. Code Ann. § 10-1-393.14
Requires individuals be informed if their criminal history is going to be used to deny them employment. Also allows individuals to dispute incorrect information reported by a Consumer Reporting Agency and creates a state cause of action against agencies that fail to comply.
License Suspension – Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-76(b)
Gives judges the discretion to reinstate driver’s licenses for certain individuals charged with drug offenses not related to the direct operation of a motor vehicle.
Mugshots Online – Ga. Code Ann. § 35-1-18
Prohibits law enforcement from publishing mugshots online.
Employer Liability – Ga. Code Ann. § 51-1-54
Provides some protection from negligent hiring liability claims for employers who hire people who have been pardoned or issued a certificate of rehabilitation by the Department of Corrections.
Mugshot Removal – Ga. Code Ann. §10-1-393.5
Requires mugshot companies to remove photos when the charge(s) is eligible for restriction. Photos must be removed within 30 days of a request, free of charge.
Record Restriction Law – Ga. Code Ann. § 35-3-37
Expands access to restriction (expungement from official criminal history) for non-convictions and allows restriction of certain misdemeanor convictions for Youthful Offenders. Improves the process, reducing the costs to applicants, and allows restricted charges to be sealed so they cannot be reported by private background check companies.