Record Restriction in Georgia: An Overview

In Georgia, the process of limiting access to certain criminal records is known as “record restriction,” often referred to as expungement in other jurisdictions. This legal process prevents certain criminal records from being visible in public background checks, thereby helping individuals improve their chances of gaining employment, housing, and educational opportunities. However, record restriction and sealing a record are distinct processes with different legal implications and requirements.

At Swingle Levin in Atlanta, Georgia, we are committed to assisting clients with the record restriction process. Our experienced legal team is dedicated to helping you understand the requirements and navigate the complexities of limiting access to your criminal records. We provide personalized support and professional guidance to ensure you achieve the best possible results, allowing you to move forward with your life.

Eligibility for Record Restriction

Under Georgia law, not all criminal records qualify for restriction. The key criteria for eligibility include the nature of the offense, the outcome of the case, and the time elapsed since the charge. Here are the main categories of offenses that may be eligible for restriction:

1. Non-Convictions

Charges that did not result in a conviction can often be restricted. This includes cases dismissed, nolle prosequi (not prosecuted), or where the accused was found not guilty. Additionally, cases that ended without prosecution due to insufficient evidence or where charges were dropped may also qualify. However, there are exceptions, such as cases dismissed due to evidence suppression or witness unavailability.

2. Minor or Youthful Offenders

Misdemeanors committed before the age of 21 may be eligible for restriction, provided certain conditions are met. These conditions include having no subsequent convictions for the past five years and completing all sentencing requirements. However, serious offenses such as DUIs, vehicular homicide, and sexual offenses are excluded from restriction.

3. Dismissed Felony Charges with Unrelated Misdemeanor Convictions

In some instances, if a felony charge was dismissed and the individual was convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor, the felony charge might be restricted. This scenario is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the court.

The Process of Record Restriction

The process for record restriction in Georgia differs based on when the arrest occurred:

Arrests After July 1, 2013: For arrests occurring after this date, individuals typically need to contact the prosecuting attorney to initiate the restriction process. The prosecuting attorney will review the case to determine eligibility for restriction.

Arrests Before July 1, 2013: For older cases, individuals must apply for restriction at the arresting agency. This involves filling out specific forms and potentially paying processing fees. If the request is denied, the individual can appeal the decision in the Superior Court of the county where the arrest occurred.

Differences Between Record Restriction and Sealing

While record restriction and sealing are sometimes used interchangeably, they have distinct differences:

Record Restriction

When a record is restricted, it is removed from public view and is not disclosed in background checks for most employment, housing, or licensing purposes. However, the record remains accessible to law enforcement and certain government agencies for criminal justice purposes. In Georgia, restricted records are not considered sealed under federal law, meaning federal agencies and out-of-state employers may still access these records.

Sealing a Record

Sealing a record typically involves a more comprehensive process where the record is not only removed from public databases but also physically sealed, making it inaccessible to anyone, including most law enforcement agencies. In Georgia, sealing a record often requires a separate court petition and approval from a judge, and it may involve stricter eligibility criteria compared to record restriction.

Impact and Considerations

The ability to restrict or seal a criminal record can significantly impact an individual’s life. Record restriction in Georgia helps mitigate the long-term consequences of a criminal record, enabling better access to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. However, the process requires careful navigation of legal requirements and procedures, and individuals are often advised to seek legal assistance to ensure their cases are handled correctly.

Understanding the nuances of record restriction and its limitations is crucial.  Swingle Levin an help you with that. For instance, even restricted records may impact federal employment or out-of-state opportunities. Therefore, individuals should verify the status of their records and, if necessary, pursue further actions like sealing to ensure comprehensive protection.

Contact Swingle Levin Today

Record restriction in Georgia offers a pathway for individuals to reduce the negative impact of their criminal records on their lives. By understanding eligibility criteria, the application process, and the differences between record restriction and sealing, individuals can make informed decisions and take appropriate steps to secure their future opportunities. 

At Swingle Levin in Atlanta, Georgia, our dedicated team of legal professionals is here to guide you through every step of the process. We provide professional advice tailored to your unique situation, ensuring that all necessary documentation is accurately completed and submitted. Our commitment is to help you achieve the best possible outcome, so you can move forward with confidence and peace of mind. Contact Swingle Levin today for comprehensive assistance with your record restriction needs.