Have you ever been arrested? Even if you weren’t convicted or the charges were dropped, the record of an arrest can still appear on your criminal history. This can cause major problems down the road when you go to submit an application for a job, housing, licenses, or even a loan. It may seem unfair that employers and lenders can see this information when you weren’t even convicted. And in fact, Georgia law deals with this issue by allowing people who’ve been arrested to “expunge” arrest records so they are not visible to the public. This blog explains the expungement process and provides an overview of who qualifies.
What Is It?
Expungement, or “record restriction”, as it is now called in Georgia, is a way to remove certain criminal charges from your public record. The most important thing to remember here is this is about arrest records, not convictions, so if you were convicted or pled guilty to a criminal offense, you cannot restrict those charges.
Under certain circumstances set forth by Georgia law, record restriction allows someone who has been arrested to have information about his or her criminal record restricted so that it cannot be accessed by the public. A common misunderstanding is that record restriction means all record of your arrest and related charges is destroyed. That’s not exactly true- even if properly restricted, the information may still be available to law enforcement officials for criminal justice purposes, but it will not be available to the public.
What does it cover?
Georgia allows individuals to restrict records when the charges against you were closed or were disposed of without a conviction. When your case was concluded, the court that handled your case issued a final disposition. You may be eligible to restrict your record if the final disposition in your case was any of the following:
· Not Presented to Grand Jury
· No Further Action Anticipated
· Nolle Prossed/Prosequi
· Placed on Dead Docket
· No Record on File
· Verdict of Not Guilty
· Vacated/Reversed Conviction
Even if the charges against you were dismissed, you still are not eligible for record restriction if you have pending charges against you, you’re on probation or parole, or you were convicted of a similar charge within the last 5 years.
These are not the only circumstances in which you may restrict your records and Georgia recently changed its laws on record restriction. Since this area of law is complex, it is strongly encouraged that you contact a criminal defense attorney before beginning the record restriction process. If you want to learn more about the recent changes to Georgia’s laws on record restriction, stay tuned for next week’s blog!