Criminal Convictions and Restoration of Rights in Georgia

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restoration of rights

A Pardon is an order of official forgiveness and is granted to those individuals who have maintained a good reputation in their community following the completion of their sentence(s). A Pardon is an official statement attached to the criminal record that states that the State of Georgia has pardoned the crime. It is an act of official forgiveness, and is granted only in exceptional cases. It does not expunge, remove or erase the crime from your record. A common purpose to seeking a pardon is to advance in employment or education.

A Restoration of Rights is an order restoring a person’s civil rights which are lost in Georgia upon conviction. These include the right to run for and hold public office, to serve on a jury, and to serve as a Notary Public. The right to vote is automatically restored upon completion of your sentence, and therefore you need not submit an application.

Restoration of rights is available for federal and out-of-state offenses, with the caveat that the applicant must currently reside in-state. Because these rights are not forfeited upon conviction of a misdemeanor, Restoration of Rights and Pardons are typically only awarded for felony offenses. The only exception to this rule is for applicants who are subject to deportation for their convictions.

These services are separate from an Expungement, in which offenses are removed or sealed from your record. Although the state of Georgia does not participate in Expungements, we do offer Restrictions of Records. While Restrictions of Records are a separate process from Restoration of Rights or Pardons, on August 5, 2020 SB288 was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp creating a pathway towards Restriction of Records. SB288 made felony convictions that have been pardoned eligible for record restriction, except for serious violent felonies or sexual offenses, so long as there have been no convictions since the pardon and no charges are pending.

Eligibility

To have rights restored:

  • The entirety of your sentence must be completed.
  • For Pardons, the offenses must not be federal or out of state.
  • There may be no pending charges against you.
  • The case may not be a Dead Docket case, however a Dead Docket case will not count against you as a pending charge.
    • Dead Docket cases are not eligible for Firearm Restoration.
  • You must have completed two years with no additions to your criminal record.
    • For a full pardon, the waiting period is increased from two years to five years.
    • For restoration of Firearm Rights, the waiting period is increased to ten years.
    • For Sex Offenders, this waiting period is increased to ten years.

Exceptions can be applied for, however, to reduce this waiting period- either you or your attorney can apply for a waiver if you can demonstrate that “the waiting period is shown to be detrimental to the applicant’s livelihood by delaying his or her qualifying for employment in his or her chosen profession.”

Process

The process begins by submitting an application to the State Board of Pardons and Parole (SBPP). The SBPP handles all Pardons and Restorations of Rights- the Governor is explicitly prohibited from issuing a Pardon in the state of Georgia. This 15-page application was last modified in 2018, and requests extensive information in regards to your personal life, financial history, employment history, community involvement, and why you should receive a pardon. Essentially, it offers you the opportunity to make a case as to why you should be awarded a Restoration of Rights. For sex offenders, there is a separate but similar application that includes additional questions unique to sex offenders. This application is then submitted along with proof of US Citizenship and an official criminal history from the Sheriff’s Office or local FBI office that is obtained within 30 days of the time of submission.

The Board generally considers cases on a paper record without an in-person hearing, though it has the power to conduct public hearings. An investigator for the Board conducts an in person interview. It also acts by majority vote by written decision, and gives no reasons. 

On average, processing an application takes approximately six to nine months, and may take longer based on the Board’s workload. Over the last five years, Georgia has averaged an approval rate of 63.2%.

Rights

The three rights that can be restored are Voting Rights, Civil Rights, and Weapon Rights.

Voting rights are automatically restored upon completion of sentences. Additionally, an Attorney General opinion that has held since 1984 interprets “completion of the sentence” to include payment of a fine that is imposed as “a separate sentence in addition to a sentence of incarceration or a sentence of probation.”

Civil rights to hold public office are not awarded until after ten years have passed from the time of completion of sentence without any additional criminal activity. A Restoration of Rights is not explicitly required to sit on a jury, however- a pardon is sufficient for jury duty.

Weapon rights are more difficult to restore. As mentioned above, they have a longer waiting period of ten years without criminal activity before you are eligible to apply for them, and it must be specifically declared in writing on the application. Weapon rights are also permanently forfeited for applicants who have been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces. A Pardon applicant may request that the Pardon be specially worded to restore this firearm right, but they must provide in detail their reason for the request, and provide letters from three “citizens of unquestioned integrity.” Weapon rights are specific to the right to carry a firearm as well as the right to apply for licensure of any weapon.

CONTACT BIXON LAW TODAY

If you need assistance making your case to restore your rights or request a pardon, give Bixon Law a call today to speak to one of our experienced Georgia criminal defense lawyers. We will vigorously defend your legal rights and advocate on your behalf to have your case dismissed or the charges against you reduced. As experienced trial attorneys, we are also not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. We represent clients in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. We are lawyers who are committed to helping people in difficult situations, and we invite you to call us at (404) 551-5684 for a free consultation today.