The Georgia First Offender Act is also known as Georgia's second chance law. It was originally enacted in 1968 and allowed first-time offenders to avoid a charge going on their public record as long as they successfully completed their sentence. However, due to changes as of July 1, 2016,Georgia first offenders can now have their records restricted immediately after a plea.
At the time of sentencing, the defendant may seek to limit public access to his or her first offender sentencing information, and the court may, in its discretion, order any of the following:
(a) Restrict dissemination of the defendant's offender records;
(B) The criminal file, docket books, criminal minutes, final record, all other records of the court, and the defendant's criminal history record information in the custody of the clerk of court, including within any index, be sealed and unavailable to the public; and
(C) Law enforcement agencies, jails, or detention centers to restrict the defendant's criminal history record information of arrest, including any fingerprints or photographs taken in conjunction with such arrest.
1968 Georgia First Offender Act:
The 1968 version allowed for the charge to be restricted after all of the requirements of a person's sentence is completed. Therefore, there was a waiting period, until probation, fines, community service, etc. were completed; then the charge could be seen on their record. While some people finish all their requirements fairly quickly, it may take other people years to complete everything.
2016 Georgia First Offender Act:
However, on July 1, 2016, O.C.G.A. § 42-8-62.1 was amended to allow for offenders to have their record restricted at the time of sentencing, instead of after all conditions were satisfied. Because everything is digital now, public records are easily accessible, and employers can check potential employee records. Therefore, this change ensures that people get a real second chance in our ever-increasing digital age.
How To Get Your Record Immediately Restricted?
Judges have the authority to restrict your record at the time of the plea or after you successfully complete all of your probation requirements. Your Attorney must request that the court restrict your record at the time of the plea.
How Does This Benefit You?
The intent of the reform is to give first-time offenders a chance to learn from their mistake and move on with their lives without a conviction hanging over their heads. Because of the expansion of the Internet, it can be difficult for people with a criminal history to obtain a job, and research has shown that steady employment is the best prevention for recidivism.
Moreover, the new change will have significant advantages to first-time offenders. One advantage is that defendants will be able to seek employment immediately instead of having to wait until they have satisfied all the conditions of their probation. Another benefit is that people will have an easier time obtaining credit or housing without the charge on their record.
Does the Georgia First Offender Act Apply in DUI Case?
Unfortunately, the Georgia First Offender Act does not apply in DUI cases. It also does not apply in most traffic cases under Title 40 of the Official Code of Georgia.
Not every attorney is familiar with this change to the First Offender Act, but it could make a significant difference in your case. If you believe you qualify as a First Offender, contact our offices today to speak to one of our Georgia Criminal Attorneys today.
We always update our readers on Georgia DUI Penalties whenever there are changes.