The State Senate voted Tuesday afternoon on SB 207 to close a loophole in Georgia's law.
CBS Atlanta News uncovered the loophole which allows admitted criminals to continue to work with the most vulnerable population. There is one specific flaw in the first offender statute that a senator wants to fix.
The first offender statute is designed to give people a second chance. If the offender completes probation, the charge won't show up on a normal background check. Because of a loophole in the law, there's a difference depending on where the crime happens.
"I think as we've evolved, people want to stay at home more," Sen. John Albers said.
Albers wants to make sure older Georgians who want to age in the same place are protected.
"The most important job we have is to protect those that can't protect themselves," Albers said.
But there's a loophole in Georgia's law.
"It's kind of a mulligan. It's kind of a, you get one chance," Doug Lueder, owner of AmeriCare Home Care, said.
There are times when a criminal is allowed first offender status. It's designed to give them a second chance. The slate is essentially wiped clean, but when crimes are committed against certain populations that is not supposed to happen.
"There is already language in the first offender act which omits people who have committed crimes of abuse, exploitation against children or the elderly in a facility environment, they're not allowed leniency," Lueder said.
The law currently fails to mention a large population that Leuder serves.
"What's missing there specifically is the private home care provider," Albers said.
DeKalb County Assistant District Attorney Angel Riley works with the elder abuse unit. She's seen it happen several times.
"Your theft by taking could be against an elder or disabled adult and you receive first offender treatment and an employer would not know that," Riley said.
DeKalb County already opposes the first offender status when it involves this vulnerable population.
"If a prosecutor can show that this individual targeted this population, then yes, it should be reportable and should be seen by employers," Riley said.
Albers took action at the insistence of Lueder, amending the first offender statute to include private home care providers.
"So it's the missing loophole we think we can address by amending this existing piece of law," Albers said.
Lueder who owns a private care business hopes this is the solution to a longtime problem.
"Hopefully, soon, this loophole will be closed and we will be able to get reports for people who may have been given leniency that shouldn't be in the field," Lueder said.
The bill still needs to pass the Senate and then the House before it can go to the governor for approval.
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Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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