Jul 09, 2020
Working with the Georgia Justice Project and attorney Alfred Adams, Parker Hudson attorneys Jared Miller and Erik Badia obtained a ruling of significant precedence for many Georgians under the state’s retroactive first offender and record sealing laws. The Court of Appeals, ruling on an issue of first impression under Georgia’s first offender statute, found that the abolishment of a court of conviction did not preclude the use of the retroactive first offender law, and affirmed that no written consent from the District Attorney’s office is necessary to petition the court under the statute. Two judges, including the Chief Judge, wrote a special concurrence reminding Georgia Prosecutors of their ability to aid the legislature fulfil its goals under these laws of reintegrating Georgians who have come into contact with the criminal justice system in the community. The ruling is significant for all Georgians petitioning courts to seek retroactive first offender status, and Georgians seeking to take advantage of Georgia’s record restriction statute.
The attorneys are assisting a pro bono client her in her effort to prevent a nearly ten year-old misdemeanor from stalling her professional career. At 16, while in high school, the client was arrested for a minor fighting infraction. Nearly a decade later, after completing training to become a Licensed Practical Nurse, she was denied certification by the State due to the misdemeanor charge. The client petitioned the Superior Court where she was charged to gain retroactive first offender status and to seal the record of her charge, but the trial court found that because the municipal court where the client was originally charged had been abolished, the trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear the client’s petition. The trial court also found that, despite verbal consent from an assistant district attorney, the District Attorney did not provide the required consent required under the statute to consider the client’s petition.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and held that it has jurisdiction to consider the client’s petition, and that the verbal consent of an assistant district attorney to file the petition met the statutory consent requirement. In a win for the client, the Court of Appeals remanded the case so that the client’s petition can now be considered by the trial court. Notably, Judge Hodges, joined by Chief Judge McFadden, wrote a special opinion fully concurring in the judgment to “remind Georgia prosecutors of the discretion given to them by [Georgia law] to fulfill the very important objective articulated by our General Assembly – that is, to ‘promote an offender’s successful reentry into society.’”
Parker Hudson is proud to partner with Georgia Justice Project to assist with its efforts to support individuals affected by the criminal justice system and reduce barriers to their reentry into their communities.
A copy of the Court of Appeals opinion can be found here.