ATLANTA - Beginning next week, Cobb County will be the first in the state to have a records expungement help desk.
The "Second Chance Desk" will open for the first time on Friday, June 25 and will be located inside the Cobb County Circuit Defender's Office. Attorneys from that office and the Georgia Justice Project will staff it, though the concept has the support of the Cobb County District Attorney's Office, the Cobb County Solicitor General and the Cobb County Judicial Circuit as well.
"Many people may not realize how much your criminal history--even if it's 5, 10, 20 years--can impact you," explained Georgia Justice Project Legal Director Brenda Smeeton. "It imposes barriers to employment, to finding a safe place to live for your family. So, it's really important that we are able to go back and clean up some of these records so that they can move on without that burden."
A new Georgia law went into effect Jan. 1 paving the way for at least 1.5 million residents to qualify for record expungement. Under Senate Bill 288, anyone with a misdemeanor conviction can appeal to their original sentencing court to seal their record. The law excludes a lot of crimes, including those that are violent or sexual in nature.
"You're not eligible to clear your record immediately. For a misdemeanor, you have to have four crime-free years after you complete your sentence. So, you're really talking about at least five years after the crime is committed. So these are folks that have demonstrated that they are rehabilitated and that they want to move on with their lives," said Smeeton.
The Georgia Justice Project hopes to expand the "Second Chance Desk" concept to other places around the state, though Smeeton said Cobb County was the first to jump at the opportunity.
"For a long time many of our citizens have been subject to the structural and systemic harm that the criminal justice system has done. Now we have an opportunity to take a step forward and correct some of that," said Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady, Jr.
The desk will be open on Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Residents can make an appointment starting June 21 at CobbSecondChanceDesk.com.
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