Thomas Weaver's arrest and conviction on a firearms charge has created a lot of problems for him even after he served his sentence. Mr. Weaver told a Senate study committee on Tuesday that his conviction has made it difficult to find work, significantly narrowing his options in this slow economic recovery. "I have to continue to tell employers that I have this firearm charge," Mr. Weaver informed the Senators. "I've only found one who is willing to hire me."
Mr. Weaver, of Canton, was arrested for carrying a firearm in a public park, and as a result he was convicted of violating Georgia's public gathering law in 2009. Just a few months later the Georgia legislature passed SB 308, which repealed the very law under which Mr. Weaver had been convicted.
The irony is not lost on Mr. Weaver, who told the Senators that "this charge is no longer a charge at all."
The Senators were holding a hearing to discuss expungement reform, which is the process by which a person's arrest record can be removed from databases that are not only publicly available but commonly reviewed by employers, credit reporting agencies, newspapers, and annoying internet businesses that display mug shots for the world to see whenever a person’s name is entered into an internet search engine.
It is difficult to find a job when a person has a criminal record, even when the crime no longer exists. It is particularly unjust to continue to publicize a conviction for something that is currently recognized under Georgia law as merely the exercise of a fundamental human right.
Sen. Josh McKoon (R, Columbus) is chairing the study committee and the Judiciary Committee that will later hear any expungement reform bill that comes from the study committee’s recommendations. There will be four more hearings between now and January 2014, when the legislative session commences again. Thomas Weaver asked the Senators to consider legislation that would prevent releasing a criminal conviction maintained by the Georgia Crime Information Center “if it references a crime that has subsequently been repealed or that the state no longer considers a crime at all.”
Those who share Mr. Weaver’s opinion should convey their concerns to the Senators on the study committee.
The study committee is a result of Senate Resolution 247, and the following Senators are on the committee:
Sen. Josh McKoon, Chair
Sen. Butch Miller
Sen. Ronald Ramsey, Sr.
Sen. Jesse Stone
Sen. Hardie Davis