With the overhauling of Georgia’s probation system through House Bill 310, Georgia’s First Offender Act (GFOA; O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60 et seq.) is being affected in ways that will impact employers. Under the GFOA, criminal defendant charged with a misdemeanor or certain felonies, who meet specific criteria, may plead guilty and receive probation. Upon completion of the probation, the defendant “shall be discharged without court adjudication of guilt,” which means the charge will not be considered a conviction and will not appear on his or her official criminal history.
One of the Act’s primary purposes is to protect “minor” criminal defendants from being disqualified from employment consideration based on their criminal records, and House Bill 310 expands GFOA’s protections retroactively. Now, with the approval of the court and the prosecutor, anyone who would have been eligible for sentencing under the GFOA, had it been in effect, may now petition the courts for first-offender treatment. If the petition is granted, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation will modify the petitioner’s criminal record to reflect the outcome that the current law provides.
This determination will likely mean that companies will not be able to obtain decision making information on a larger pool of offenders than they previously could. On a more positive note, even with the revision, the GFOA still does not protect those charged with the most serious felonies. To learn more about the GFOA or its requirements, click here.
To discuss the implications of this ruling on your hiring practices, or to request an evaluation of your company’s current programs, please give us a call at (765) 932-5917.