Criminal Record Restrictions in Georgia (2024) – All You Need to Know

Aug 12, 2023

A criminal record can harm many opportunities in your life. For some people, there are options to stop a criminal record from continuing to alter their future. Record restriction, or expungement, allows those with criminal records to have them restricted and sealed if they meet certain criteria. Some record restrictions are automatic, while others require a petition.

What Is Records Restriction vs. an Expungement?

Records restriction used to be called expungement under Georgia law, and now these terms are often used interchangeably. Expungement is no longer used in Georgia statutes. The state changed the term because expungement implies the erasure of a criminal record, which isn’t what happens when your records are sealed and restricted. The state still has the record in its database, and the criminal record is available to police officers and other officials in the criminal justice system. Expungement is often used colloquially to refer to restricting and sealing records away from public view, although the records are not removed entirely.

By sealing and restricting a criminal record, you no longer have to disclose that charge or conviction on job applications, housing applications, professional license applications, and other opportunities. It’s important to understand the expungement applied to your unique charge and situation, however, as there are times when even a restricted record can affect your life outside of the criminal justice system. An expungement attorney can help you understand if the charges against you qualify for record restriction and what this can change in your life.

Automatic Record Restrictions

In some cases, a criminal record can be restricted automatically, but only for charges where you never faced prosecution. When you were not prosecuted and a certain amount of time has passed since you were charged, the record may be automatically restricted. The periods of time that must have passed are:

  • two years for misdemeanors and aggravated misdemeanors
  • four years for non-serious and nonviolent felonies
  • seven years for serious violent felonies and sexual felonies

An automatic restriction seals a record for employment and licensing purposes, with some exceptions. Even if your record should have been automatically restricted, it’s important to check that it was rather than assuming it’s been sealed. Because automatic restrictions apply to cases that haven’t been prosecuted, the sealing may be temporary. A prosecutor can choose to prosecute your case if there is a reason to.

This automatic restriction has its limits. These restrictions are not considered sealed under federal law, which means that both federal agencies and out-of-state employment and licensure requests are provided the criminal record under automatic restriction. To seal the record under federal law, you will need to apply for a restriction.

What Makes a Criminal Record Eligible for Restriction?

Each individual charge or conviction will be reviewed based on its own circumstances when the court determines whether to grant an expungement. There may be unique factors about your record or charges that apply different rules or exceptions. Generally, Georgia law states that some records can be restricted, including:

  1. Non-Convictions
    If you were found not guilty, the case was dismissed for a cycle, ruled nolle prosequi or unwilling to pursue, or closed for any reason, the record may be eligible for restriction. The individual must also not have any current pending charges or have been convicted of any crimes since the case closed. There are some situations where expungement still isn’t possible, such as if the evidence against you was suppressed or if you pleaded guilty to another charge in the case. An attorney can help you determine whether your case qualifies for a non-conviction restriction.
  2. Minor or Youthful Offenders
    Some misdemeanors that you committed prior to turning 21 could be restricted. There are some crimes that cannot be restricted, such as driving under the influence (DUI), vehicular homicide, sexual battery, and other violent or sexual offenses. You must have completed your imprisonment sentence and/or probation and cannot have been charged with any criminal offense in the five years prior to the restriction request, except minor traffic charges.
  3. Dismissed Felony Charge and Unrelated Misdemeanor Conviction
    It’s possible to restrict a felony charge if you were convicted of a misdemeanor that was unrelated and the felony was dismissed. The court will review your unique situation to determine if you qualify.


Q: What Is the New Record Restriction Law in Georgia?

A: The new record restriction law in Georgia expands the number of people who are able to get their criminal records restricted and sealed. This provides more people with new opportunities in life. Record restriction is Georgia’s term for record expungement and prevents the public from accessing a person’s criminal record. However, there are limits to the criminal arrests and convictions that can be restricted.

Q: Can a First-Offense Felony Be Expunged in GA?

A: Yes, a first-offense felony could be expunged under the First Offender Act in Georgia as long as other criteria are met. Certain first-time offenders can plead guilty or plead no contest and avoid conviction for certain crimes. This act can also be applied to past convictions, allowing those who would have been eligible under the First Offender Act but were unaware of that eligibility to restrict the conviction. The First Offender Act does not apply to all convictions, and applying it retroactively requires official approval and a hearing before it is allowed.

Q: What Is a Restricted Record?

A: A record restriction, also called an expungement, occurs when an individual’s criminal record is restricted and sealed. This prevents their criminal record from being public information, meaning that it will not show up in background checks in most cases for getting a new job, educational opportunities, and housing. The criminal record is still available to those in the criminal justice system, but an individual is no longer required to disclose it for employment or housing purposes.

Q: What Crimes Cannot Be Expunged in Georgia?

A: Georgia law allows several misdemeanor and felony offenses to be expunged or sealed from public view. However, there are some convictions that can never be expunged. This includes misdemeanors such as:

  • DUIs
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Aggressive or reckless driving
  • Family violence battery
  • Family violence assault
  • Sexual battery
  • Child molestation

It also includes felonies such as:

  • Armed robbery
  • Murder and felony murder
  • Rape
  • Aggravated sexual battery

It isn’t possible to expunge these and other serious violent or sex-related convictions.

Your Criminal Record Restriction Attorney

Navigating a record expungement can be overwhelming, but a successful restriction can change your life for the better. Contact The Law Office of Delisa Williams PC, and let our attorney review your circumstances and help you petition for expungement.