Expungement and Record Sealing in Georgia

Expungement and Record Sealing in Georgia: A Guide for Clearing Your Criminal Record

Having a criminal record can make life extremely difficult. It can prevent you from getting a job, finding housing, going to school, and more. Fortunately, Georgia has options that allow people to clear their criminal record through expungement and record sealing. This guide will explain everything you need to know about clearing your record in Georgia.

What is Expungement and Record Sealing?

Expungement and record sealing both refer to the process of removing your criminal record from public view.

  • Expungement involves destroying or sealing your criminal record. It’s like your arrest and conviction never happened.
  • Record sealing keeps your criminal record intact, but hides it from public view. Law enforcement can still see sealed records.

When your record is expunged or sealed, it won’t show up on most background checks done by employers, landlords, schools, etc. Your charges essentially disappear from your criminal history.

Why Expunge or Seal Your Criminal Record?

Having a criminal record closes a lot of doors. Landlords often deny housing applications for anyone with a record, even for minor offenses. Many employers immediately reject applicants with criminal histories, even for entry-level jobs. Schools can deny your admission or financial aid due to a record.

Clearing your criminal record gives you a clean slate and opens up more opportunities. You’ll have an easier time getting jobs, housing, loans, education, and government benefits.

Am I Eligible to Expunge or Seal My Record in Georgia?

In Georgia, you can petition the court to seal your criminal record for certain misdemeanor convictions. You can also apply to pardon and expunge certain felony convictions.

Eligibility for Misdemeanor Convictions

You may be able to seal up to two misdemeanor convictions from your record if:

  • At least 4 years have passed since the completion of your sentence (including probation or parole)
  • You have not been convicted of any other crimes during those 4 years

Some misdemeanors cannot be sealed, like sex crimes, family violence, theft, or crimes against children. Most other misdemeanors are eligible, such as minor drug possession charges, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, etc.

Eligibility for Felony Convictions

For felony convictions, you must first obtain a pardon from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. A pardon forgives you for the crime and restores your rights.

To get a pardon, you generally need to meet these requirements:

  • 5 years have passed since completing your sentence for most felonies
  • No pending criminal charges or open cases
  • No other convictions within the past 5 years

Once pardoned, you can then apply to the court to seal your felony record. However, Georgia law prohibits sealing records for certain violent or sexual felonies. This includes murder, armed robbery, rape, child molestation, and more. Most non-violent felonies can potentially be sealed after a pardon.

An attorney can advise if your specific charges may qualify for record restriction in Georgia. The process has become more accessible in recent years through new expungement laws.

How to Apply for Record Restriction in Georgia

The steps to seal your criminal record depend on when you were arrested:

For Arrests Before July 1, 2013

  1. Get a certificate of eligibility from the arresting agency
  2. Fill out a record restriction application
  3. Submit the application to the arresting agency
  4. The agency will forward your application to the District Attorney’s office
  5. The DA’s office will approve or deny the application within 90 days

For Arrests After July 1, 2013

  1. Contact the District Attorney’s office directly
  2. Complete the DA’s application to restrict your criminal record
  3. The DA’s office will approve or deny within 90 days

Once approved, the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) will restrict your criminal record so it no longer appears on background checks. Hiring an expungement lawyer can help navigate this process.

Should I Get Record Restriction or Expungement in Georgia?

Record restriction simply hides your record from the public but law enforcement can still access it. Record sealing through court-ordered expungement makes your record totally private.

Restriction may be sufficient if you only need to pass background checks for jobs, housing, etc. But for complete privacy, speak to an attorney about getting your record sealed through expungement. This clears your charges from court files and law enforcement databases.

Finding an Expungement Lawyer in Georgia

Clearing your criminal record requires navigating complex legal processes. Having an experienced lawyer handle your case significantly increases the chance of success.

Look for an attorney who specializes in record clearing and expungement law. They will advise your eligibility, prepare the required forms, and represent you at any necessary court hearings.

The State Bar of Georgia offers a directory to find qualified lawyers in your area. Search for attorneys with expertise in criminal record sealing and expungement.

Benefits of Expunging or Sealing Your Criminal Record

  • Better employment opportunities – Many jobs require background checks
  • Access to student loans and higher education – Schools screen applicants for criminal histories
  • Improved chances of getting an occupational license – Licensing boards often do background checks
  • Easier approval for housing and rental applications – Landlords routinely deny applicants with records
  • Eligibility for government benefits – Criminal records can disqualify you from benefits
  • Increased security clearance – Many fields require clean background checks
  • Removal of stigma – An expunged or sealed record gives you a clean slate

As you can see, clearing your criminal record opens up a lot more possibilities for your future. Contact an attorney to start the record expungement process today. With this guide, you should better understand the steps and benefits of expunging or sealing your criminal record in Georgia.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to expunge or seal a criminal record in Georgia?

Attorney fees vary, but expect to pay $1,000 – $3,000 for legal representation. The court charges filing fees around $50-100. If hiring a lawyer is unaffordable, check if you qualify for assistance from legal aid groups.

How long does it take to seal or expunge a record in Georgia?

For basic record sealing, expect 2-4 months. The pardon process for felony expungement takes 6-12 months. An attorney can request expedited review to speed things up.

Can I expunge my record myself without a lawyer?

It’s possible to apply for record sealing without an attorney, but not recommended. The law is complex and applications often get denied without legal help. Hiring a lawyer greatly improves your chances.

Will my sealed or expunged record show up on an FBI background check?

No – sealing or expunging your record in Georgia removes it from national FBI criminal databases as well. A properly cleared record will not appear on any background check.

Can I get my record sealed if I was convicted under the First Offender Act?

Yes, if you meet the requirements of the First Offender Act, your charges can be sealed once your probation is completed. An attorney can petition the court for immediate sealing.

Are juvenile records eligible for expungement in Georgia?

Yes, Georgia allows expungement for some juvenile records, but usually only for first-time, low-level offenses. An attorney can advise if a juvenile record can be restricted or sealed.

Does expungement remove my information from the internet?

Unfortunately no – news reports, mugshots, and other online information about your arrest may still exist. But record expungement will clear your charges from any official background checks.

Can a pardoned felony be expunged in Georgia?

Yes, Georgia allows pardoned felonies to be expunged, except for very serious violent and sexual crimes. The pardon must come first, then you can apply to the court to seal the record.

What happens if my expungement application gets denied?

If your petition for expungement gets denied, an attorney can file a motion to reconsider. If that fails, you may need to wait and reapply later when you’re eligible. Don’t give up!

Clearing your criminal record in Georgia is possible with persistence and good legal guidance. This lengthy guide summarizes the expungement and record sealing process. Contact an attorney to discuss your specific case and get started on the path to a clean record today!