An arrest does not have to haunt you for the rest of your life. You can have charges and convictions removed from your criminal record. By erasing your former crimes, the general public will not be able to see your history.
Your lawyer can petition to have the court expunge your record. An expungement seals or erases the charge or conviction from your criminal record. Once the court seals your charge, you do not have to disclose this information to other people, such as landlords and employers.
Differences Between a Charge and Conviction
When local law enforcement arrests you, they are charging you with breaking the law. A charge is an accusation, which does not mean you are guilty, as you are innocent until proven otherwise. They may dismiss, drop, or prosecute your charge.
If the prosecution takes legal action, your case goes to court, or you negotiate for a plea bargain. The court will acquit you of the charges if it finds you innocent. Otherwise, the judge will convict you. A conviction is when the court finds you guilty, or you plead guilty of a crime.
Almost all non-convictions are eligible for expungement. You can request your non-conviction erased if local law enforcement dropped the charges, a judge dismissed the case, or the court acquitted you of the accusation.
However, the court may not grant you an expunged record if:
- The arrest is part of a criminal activity pattern.
- They did not acquit you of all charges stemming from the arrest.
- You pleaded guilty to another charge.
- Law enforcement or a prosecutor drop or dismiss the charges as part of a plea bargain.
You can seal records of certain convictions. For example, the Georgia First Offender Act offers probation instead of the court judgment to some defendants. If they plead guilty and complete their probation without another arrest or conviction, their conviction is eligible for restriction.
What Convictions Are Eligible for Restriction
Misdemeanor convictions that happened before your 21st birthday may qualify for expungement. Misdemeanors convictions not eligible for restriction for young offenders includes the following:
- Serious traffic offenses, like reckless or aggressive driving and driving under the influence (DUI)
- Sexual offenses, like sexual battery, sexual assault, pimping, and prostitution
- Crimes against children, like molestation, exploitation, enticement, obscene phone contact, or furnishing pornography
- Theft, not including shoplifting
Felony convictions are also not eligible for restriction in Georgia, no matter your age. However, you can file a petition for a pardon.
To request a restricted record, you must have completed your sentence and not received a charge within the last five years. You cannot have your entire criminal record seal. You must apply for each conviction separately.
The Expungement Process
There are two methods to expunge your record in Georgia, depending on the situation. If your sentencing has yet to occur, your legal team can request the court seal the record. Your sentencing documents will note the erased record.
However, there is a period you will need to wait before the expungement occurs. It will take the following lengths of time after completing your sentence until your record is eligible for restriction.:
- Two years for misdemeanors
- Four years for most felonies
- Seven years for serious violent and sex-related felonies
If your arrest is from years ago, you will need to apply for expungement. The arresting agency is where you apply. There will be an application fee, but it cannot be more than $50. You must complete the first of the three sections, which will ask for:
- Personal information, such as your name, race, and sex.
- Identifying information, such as your date of birth and Social Security number.
- Your address.
- Details about the arrest, including the date, arresting agency, and offenses.
You will then need to get the arresting agency and prosecutor to complete and sign the following sections. The prosecuting attorney approves or denies expungement requests. If approved, the prosecutor will submit your information to the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC). Then, the GCIC sends a notification of restriction on the record to the arresting agency.
However, you will need to take your application back to the arresting agency if the prosecutor’s office cannot access or edit your information on the GCIC database. You will need to send the application to the GCIC along with the $25 processing fee.
Once the approved application is in the GCIC database, it will take 30 days before the entry is restricted to the arresting agency. However, some counties can take longer.
Reasons Why the State Would Deny Your Expungement
The prosecutor can deny your request. They can deny your application if you have a conviction within the last five years.
The prosecutor will not grant your arrest records for sealing if you have pending criminal charges. Although you might not have a second conviction, pending charges mean there is a possibility that you may receive one, which can make you ineligible.
If the prosecutor denies your record restriction request, you have the right to file a lawsuit. You have a short period after the denial to pursue legal action. The lawsuit goes to the Superior Court of the arresting agency’s county.
Who can see your expunged record?
The general public cannot access sealed records. The information is no longer a public matter. Entities that commonly complete background checks include:
- Landlords when you apply to live in a new rental.
- Employers when you apply for a new job.
- Professional licensing agencies when you request an occupational license.
- Colleges and universities when looking at your application for grants, scholarships, and work-study programs.
- The federal and state governments, such as food stamps and public housing. If you apply for welfare, the governing agency can deny you based on an arrest that did not result in a conviction.
- Adoption agencies, when you apply to be a foster parent or going through the adoption process.
- Lenders when you apply for a car, house, or student loan.
- However, details about your charge and conviction are still available to the judicial branch of the government.
Is an arrest on your record affecting your livelihood or life in some manner? If you want to learn more about expunging your record, contact the team at The LaScala Firm today. Call 404-881-8866 for a free consultation now.