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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
It also includes felonies such as:
It isn’t possible to expunge these and other serious violent or sex-related convictions.
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.