In 2013 the Georgia legislature passed a bill that changed the requirements and procedures for getting a criminal incident removed from a person’s official criminal record. There has been a change to the types of convictions that are eligible for expungement and a simplified method for getting the incident expunged from the record.
Most felonies and most misdemeanors are still not eligible for expungement. With felonies it does not matter how long ago the conviction happened or whether the individual pled guilty, was convicted at trial, or used an “Alford plea”. Some misdemeanors committed by “youthful offenders” are eligible for expungement. Expungment (or removal as it is called) is most useful for non-convictions on a criminal record. Incidents like an arrest with no charge, acquittals, most dismissals, no bills etc.
The biggest change in eligibility is that most non-convictions are now eligible for expungement. This means that if you are not convicted of a crime it is possible to get the incident removed from the record. This is a welcome change. It used to be that even if one was acquitted at trial, the fact they were charged in the first place was still on their criminal record. Now the record of the charge can be expunged.
Procedural changes to the expungement process are also important. For crimes committed after July 1, 2013 the expungement process is (supposed to be) automatic. So for instance, if someone is arrested but let go without a charge then then the arrest should automatically be expunged once the correct disposition is entered into the record.
Some dispositions still require some sort of application process to be removed from the record. This includes dead docket, a conviction that is reversed or remanded, convictions eligible under the “youthful offender” statute, and felonies that were dismissed in relation to a related misdemeanor conviction.
If the arrest happened before July 1, 2013 then the individual must follow the old procedure. The law changes the time the arresting agency has to make a determination as to whether the incident is eligible for expungement. Now the agency must make a decision within 150 days.
Sealing a Record
The new law allows an individual who has a criminal incident expunged from their record can now petition the court to seal the record after it has been expunged. Sealing the record is helpful in helping to make sure the incident does not show up on a background check from a private company. Private companies get their information from multiple sources other than the official Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) report. The private companies often get information from court clerks or jails. By petitioning the courts and jails to seal a record it means the sealed criminal incident won’t show up on a private background check.
Do I Have to Disclose Expunged or Sealed Incidents?
What is potentially most important to people with criminal records that are expunged is whether they have to still disclose the incident if asked on a job application or something similar. The law does not allow a person to deny something like an arrest even if it was expunged. There is also no law that prevents an employer from asking about sealed or expunged criminal incidents.
Pardons in Georgia
If your conviction is not eligible for expungement then a pardon might be the best option. To receive a pardon one must:
Complete all sentences 5 years before applying;
Live a law-abiding life in that 5 years;
Have no pending charges;
And all fines and penalties must be paid.
If one is eligible for a pardon in Georgia they must then fill out an application with a copy of their GCIC report and optional letters of reference. There is no filing fee for the application and no appeals process. The value of a pardon is questionable. It doesn’t make the incident disappear from the record. However once a crime is pardoned it will be indicated on the record. A pardon will also restore certain rights like the ability to run for and hold office, serve on a jury, or serve as a notary. A pardon can also restore a person’s rights to own certain firearms.
The process for Georgia expungements has been changed for the better. It is easier to get certain criminal incidents taken off your record. However if you have some sort of conviction it is still difficult to get that removed from your criminal record. In Georgia talk to attorney Benjamin Kandy to get an idea of your options in regards to removing incident from your criminal record.