Georgia law permits the sealing of criminal records in limited circumstances, notably if you were found not guilty of the offense or your case was dismissed. Sealing your record from public view is no longer called expungement in Georgia. The process is now known as record restriction, which means that eligible records on your official criminal history report are restricted from public view and are only accessible to law enforcement for criminal justice purposes. Whether you can have your record restricted depends on when you were arrested and how your case was resolved. In Georgia, criminal records are maintained by the Georgia Crime Information Center.
Check if Your Case Is Eligible for Restriction
Felony and most misdemeanor convictions cannot be restricted from your record. Generally, you can restrict charges that were dismissed without being referred to the state prosecutor, and not guilty verdicts, unless there are compelling reasons why the court should not restrict your records, for example, evidence of jury tampering. Georgia law does not allow for the sealing of an entire criminal history. You must apply separately for each eligible arrest.
Arrests That Occurred Before July 1, 2013
By Georgia law, acquittals and dismissals that occurred before July 1, 2013 can be dismissed via the arresting law enforcement agency in the county where the charge originated. Visit the arresting agency and ask for an application to restrict your record. Fill out section one of the application and file it with the arresting agency. The maximum filing fee is $50.
Within 30 days, the agency must send your request to the prosecuting attorney's office to confirm that your case qualifies for restriction. The attorney's office has 90 days to approve or deny the request. The whole process should take no longer than 150 days. If your application is successful, send the approval to GCIC with a $25 money order. GCIC will restrict the charge from your record.
Arrests That Occurred After July 1, 2013
If you were arrested after July 1, 2013, you don't have to apply for restriction or pay a fee. Instead, the arrest automatically will be restricted when the court clerk enters the acquittal or dismissal into the GCIC database.
Restriction by Court Order
Other types of cases may be eligible for restriction by order of the superior court. These include:
- Cases that are suspended indefinitely, known as dead docket cases: If the state has not moved forward with the prosecution after 12 months, you can ask the court to restrict the record.
- Minor misdemeanor convictions that occurred before the age of 21: You must have maintained a clear record in the five years after the charge.
- Felony charges: You were cleared of the felony but convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor.
To restrict these records, file petition in the superior court in the county where the record is located. Find sample petition documents at the Georgia Justice Project's website. Depending on the circumstances, you may be asked to attend a hearing within 90 days of filing the petition or the court may simply order that the record be restricted without a hearing.
- You are not eligible for expungement of your criminal record in Georgia if:
- * there was a plea agreement that caused the charges to be dismissed
- * the government was prevented introducing material evidence
- * a material witness refused to testify against you;
- * expungement was not specifically requested before you entered a pretrial diversion program
- * your conduct caused someone else to be arrested; or
- * diplomatic, consular, or similar immunity was received on your behalf.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.