When someone is arrested the impact does not go away, even if the charges are dropped. Employment, housing, financial loans, and more are made difficult. An expungement can offer a fresh start.
What Is Expungement?
Expungement and record sealing are methods used to clear your criminal record. Expungement removes the offense as if it never happened, and sealing prevents public access to it.
In Georgia, there are no legal remedies for a complete expungement. Criminal records are closed and considered expunged. As of July 1, 2013, a new expungement law goes into effect, according to the Georgia Justice Project. The process will now be referred to as record restriction. Record restriction can be reversed in certain situations, like a new arrest.
Are You Eligible?
In Georgia you cannot get record restriction if you took an Alford plea, or entered a "nolo contendere" plea because both are treated as guilty pleas and result in a conviction. You may be able to apply for a pardon if the offense was a long time ago and you have led a productive law-abiding life since that time.
But you may be eligible for expungement if your case was dismissed or not prosecuted. You will be eligible for record restriction if charges were dropped prior to being formally charged. You must not have pending charges, be on probation or parole, or convicted of a similar charge within five years prior. If your case was assigned a case number, it is considered formally charged.
You may apply for record restriction after a specified amount of time has passed—about the length of the statute of limitations for that crime. Individuals with misdemeanors must wait two years, felonies four years, and serious violent felonies or certain sexual offenses involving a victim under 16 years of age must wait seven years before applying for record restriction.
Barred from Expungement
There are certain situations in which record restriction is not allowed at all. These situations include criminal acts like child molestation, prostitution, sexual battery, theft and serious traffic offenses like DUI, vehicular homicide or fleeing the scene of an accident.
To have records restricted you will need to apply for each offense separately. It may not be possible to have all records restricted and your request may be denied. There are forms and a process that must be followed to have your record restricted.
You must provide personal information like your birthday, social security number, and arrest and case details. The arresting agency and the court in the county where you were arrested will have records of any applicable court procedures.
How Do You Go About Filing?
Expungement can be completed without an attorney, but it may be wise to speak with an attorney to ensure success. The Georgia Crime Information Center's Bureau of Investigation, has forms online. Steps for expungement are:
- Submit record restriction application. Fees are about $25 dollars.
- The arresting agency forwards the application to the prosecution office to determine eligibility.
- The prosecutor returns the application to the arresting agency with approval or denial.
- If approved, your application will be returned to you for further action.
- Send the approved application to GCIC with a money order for $25.00. If your application is denied, it will be returned to you, and you’ll have 30 days to appeal.
Missing information will result in an unprocessed request, and any paid fees will be lost. Record restriction does not affect all private background reporting agencies. Some may voluntarily remove the information if you contact them.
Getting Legal Help
Any legal information in this article is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney. A lawyer who specializes in expungement and record sealing will be able to guide you through this complicated process.