Legislation overhauling Georgia’s probation system also affects Georgia’s First Offender Act (“GFOA”) (O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60 et seq.), which protects certain criminal defendants from being disqualified from consideration for employment based on their criminal record.
Under the GFOA, a criminal defendant who has not previously been convicted of a felony may plead guilty and be placed on probation. Upon completion of probation, the defendant “shall be discharged without court adjudication of guilt.”
House Bill 310 expands GFOA’s protections retroactively. Thus, upon approval of the court and the prosecutor, a defendant who would have been eligible for sentencing under the GFOA may receive first-offender treatment and have the Georgia Bureau of Investigation modify his or her criminal record. However, the courts maintain discretion whether to grant such petitions on the basis that doing so would serve the welfare of society.
Despite the revision, the GFOA still does not protect those convicted of serious violent felonies and certain crimes of moral turpitude, specifically, crimes involving children, the elderly, the disabled, and jobs involving their care.