Savannah Morning News Op-ed: New Georgia law to benefit those who have made past criminal mistakes

See the original published letter here.

This op-ed is by Nancy DeVetter, a local attorney and a Tybee City Council member. 

This week, millions of Georgians will have an opportunity they never had before: the opportunity to restrict and seal their criminal record.

Previously, Georgia law only allowed restriction (what we commonly think of as “expungement” or the process of limiting public access to someone’s criminal history) of non-convictions and some convictions for people who were under the age of 21 at the time of their conviction. Millions of Georgians had no choice but to continue to bear the burden of mistakes they made 10, 20, or even 50 years ago.

Nancy DeVetter

Despite serving their time and completing their sentence, people with criminal records continued to face thousands of legal limitations and the stigma of a criminal record. These Georgians can finally breathe a sigh of relief and access the opportunities they deserve, thanks to a new law that went into effect on Jan. 1.

The new law, which passed the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year with near-unanimous support, will allow restriction of two misdemeanor convictions for people who haven’t been arrested in the last four years. It will also allow restriction of certain felony convictions if they have been pardoned by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

As 40% of adults in Georgia have a criminal record (over 4 million people), nearly all of us will either benefit from this new law or know someone who will.

In this time of struggle, this law is a ray of hope for Georgians who have worked hard to move past a mistake.

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