Cobb DA arrest expungement program begins this week

Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A Cobb County District Attorney’s Office this week will start a new program that helps residents get their arrest records restricted and sealed.

The DA’s “Second Chance Desk” is scheduled to open Friday, June 25. The help desk will begin accepting online appointments in advance on Monday, June 21. Cobb residents hoping to clear an arrest from their criminal background can register at www.cobbsecondchancedesk.com or https://www.cobbcounty.org/second-chance-desk.

“This is justice in action,” District Attorney Flynn Broady said in a statement. “Removing barriers that keep nonviolent people from being productive members of society benefits everyone.”

The Second Chance Desk is a record-restriction effort available to arrestees who meet certain criteria. In Georgia, it’s a two-step process to restrict access to Georgia Bureau of Investigations criminal history and have courthouse files sealed from public record. Most states refer to the process as expungement.

Sealed and restricted records don’t show up on background checks done by employers, housing providers and other private companies. Expunged records still show up on databases available to law enforcement and prosecuting agencies.

Georgia law allows arrestees to request their record be sealed if charges against them are dropped or if they were released from custody before the arresting agency filed charges with prosecutors.

Some first offenders can also get expungement retroactively and certain pardoned convictions are eligible. Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill in August that expanded access to record restriction.

The Second Chance Desk is a coalition between the DA’s office and the Georgia Justice Project in partnership with Public Defender Randy Harris, Solicitor Gen. Barry Morgan and the Cobb Judicial Circuit.

The new program is the first of its kind in the state, according to the District Attorney’s office.

The Georgia Justice Project is a reform group that helps people impacted by the criminal justice system. Attorneys from the 35-year-old organization will staff the Second Chance Desk along with employees from the Public Defender’s Office. The desk will be open Friday mornings between 9 a.m. and noon.

“Since 4.3 million people have a Georgia criminal history, we need to find creative ways to collaborate with our local institutions to serve as many Georgians as possible,” said Doug Ammar, executive director of Georgia Justice Project.