Practice Areas

Steakley Law Firm

Expungements and Restriction of Records

criminal-background-check 424Many people wish they could erase all traces of the mistakes of their past. Unfortunately, this is more difficult to do than most people think.

Once we are no longer juveniles, we must live with our choices for the rest of our lives.

There seems to be quite a bit of misinformation and "street law" about criminal records that simply isn't true. As a general rule, criminal convictions are never expunged and do not "fall off" your criminal history after some period of time.   Short of a pardon from a sitting Governor or a reversal of the conviction on appeal to a higher court, convictions are nearly impossible to remove.

On July 1, 2013, the new Title 35 of the Official Code of Georgia regarding the restriction of records will take effect. 

 

To summarize:

If you believe your criminal history record information to be inaccurate, you may request a criminal history record information inspection at the center for $15.  If the information is wrong, the entity (arresting law enforcement agency, jail or detention center) has 60 days to correct it.  If they don't correct it within 60 days, you have 30 days to appeal to superior court for an order that the  information be corrected, supplemented, or amended by the arresting law enforcement agency, jail or detention center. 

 

Criminal history records can be restricted if:

  1. The case was never referred to the Solicitor or District Attorney for prosecution
  2. The case was referred to the prosecuting attorney, but was later dismissed.
  3. The grand jury twice reviewed the case and refused to indict
  4. All charges were dismissed after indictment or accusation (but not because of a plea deal or evidentiary ruling)
  5. It involves a drug case that ended with a successful Conditional Discharge
  6. Successful completion of Drug Court followed by dismissal and 5 years of no trouble.
  7. The accused person  was acquitted of ALL of the charges
  8. The case has been on the "dead docket" for 12 months or more
  9. The case was reversed on appeal more than two years ago
  10. Most misdemeanors by youthful offenders after 5 years

The GBI application can be found here.


Can a First Offender plea be restricted from view?  Note that Georgia First Offender convictions are NOT part of the new law (known as House Bill 1176).  The reason is that First Offender dispositions are not convictions (if completed successfully), and can be used only once.  If they were also subject to be expunged, the court system could not tell who had and had not already used their one and only First Offender option.

Learn more about First Offender dispositions here.


Here is the entire House Bill 1176 bill as it applies to restriction of records:

 

 

(a) As used in this Code section, the term:

 

(1) 'Drug court treatment program' means a treatment program operated by a drug court division in accordance with the provisions of Code Section 15-1-15.

(2) 'Entity' means the arresting law enforcement agency, including county and municipal jails and detention centers.

(3) 'Mental health treatment program' means a treatment program operated by a mental health court division in accordance with the provisions of Code Section 15-1-16.

(4) 'Nonserious traffic offense' means any offense in violation of Title 40 which is not prohibited by Article 15 of Chapter 6 of Title 40 and any similar such offense under the laws of a state which would not be considered a serious traffic offense under the laws of this state if committed in this state.

(5) 'Prosecuting attorney' means the Attorney General, a district attorney, or the solicitor-general who had jurisdiction where the criminal history record information is sought to be modified, corrected, supplemented, amended, or restricted. If the offense was a violation of a criminal law of this state which, by general law, may be tried by a municipal, magistrate, probate, or other court that is not a court of record, the term 'prosecuting attorney' shall include the prosecuting officer of such court or, in the absence of such prosecuting attorney, the district attorney of the judicial circuit in which such court is located.

(6) 'Restrict,' 'restricted,' or 'restriction' means that the criminal history record information of an individual relating to a particular charge shall be available only to judicial officials and criminal justice agencies for law enforcement or criminal investigative purposes or to criminal justice agencies for purposes of employment in accordance with procedures established by the center and shall not be disclosed or otherwise made available to any private persons or businesses pursuant to Code Section 35-3-34.

(7) 'Serious violent felony' shall have the same meaning as set forth in Code Section 17-10-6.1.

(8) 'State' includes any state, the United States or any district, commonwealth, territory, or insular possession of the United States, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

(9) 'Youthful offender' means any offender who was less than 21 years of age at the time of his or her conviction.

(b) Nothing in this article shall be construed so as to authorize any person, agency, corporation, or other legal entity of this state to invade the privacy of any citizen as defined by the General Assembly or as defined by the courts other than to the extent provided in this article.

(c) The center shall make an individual's criminal history record information available for review by such individual or his or her designee upon written application to the center.

(d) If an individual believes his or her criminal history record information to be inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading, he or she may request a criminal history record information inspection at the center. The center at which criminal history record information is sought to be inspected may prescribe reasonable hours and places of inspection and may impose such additional procedures or restrictions, including fingerprinting, as are reasonably necessary to assure the security of the criminal history record information, to verify the identities of those who seek to inspect such information, and to maintain an orderly and efficient mechanism for inspection of criminal history record information. The fee for inspection of criminal history record information shall not exceed $15.00, which shall not include the cost of the fingerprinting.

(e) If the criminal history record information is believed to be inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading, the individual may request that the entity having custody or control of the challenged information modify, correct, supplement, or amend the information and notify the center of such changes within 60 days of such request. In the case of county and municipal jails and detention centers, such notice to the center shall not be required. If the entity declines to act within 60 days of such request or if the individual believes the entity's decision to be unsatisfactory, within 30 days of the end of the 60 day period or of the issuance of the unsatisfactory decision, whichever occurs last, the individual shall have the right to appeal to the court with original jurisdiction of the criminal charges in the county where the entity is located.

(f) An appeal pursuant to subsection (e) of this Code section shall be to acquire an order from the court with original jurisdiction of the criminal charges that the subject information be modified, corrected, supplemented, or amended by the entity with custody of such information. Notice of the appeal shall be provided to the entity and the prosecuting attorney. A notice sent by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery shall be sufficient service on the entity having custody or control of the disputed criminal history record information. The court shall conduct a de novo review and, if requested by a party, the proceedings shall be recorded.

(g)

(1) Should the court find by a preponderance of the evidence that the criminal history record information in question is inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading, the court shall order such information to be appropriately modified, corrected, supplemented, or amended as the court deems appropriate. Any entity with custody, possession, or control of any such criminal history record information shall cause each and every copy thereof in its custody, possession, or control to be altered in accordance with the court's order within 60 days of the entry of the order.

(2) To the extent that it is known by the requesting individual that an entity has previously disseminated inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading criminal history record information, he or she shall, by written request, provide to the entity the name of the individual, agency, or company to which such information was disseminated. Within 60 days of the written request, the entity shall disseminate the modification, correction, supplement, or amendment to the individual's criminal history record information to such individual, agency, or company to which the information in question has been previously communicated, as well as to the individual whose information has been ordered so altered.

(h) Access to an individual's criminal history record information, including any fingerprints or photographs of the individual taken in conjunction with the arrest, shall be restricted by the center for the following types of dispositions:

(1) Prior to indictment, accusation, or other charging instrument:

 

(A) The case was never referred for further prosecution to the proper prosecuting attorney by the arresting law enforcement agency and:

(i) The offense against such individual is closed by the arresting law enforcement agency. It shall be the duty of the head of the arresting law enforcement agency to notify the center whenever a record is to be restricted pursuant to this division. A copy of the notice shall be sent to the accused and the accused's attorney, if any, by mailing the same by first-class mail; or

(ii) The center does not receive notice from the arresting law enforcement agency that the offense has been referred to the prosecuting attorney or transferred to another law enforcement or prosecutorial agency of this state, any other state or a foreign nation, or any political subdivision thereof for prosecution and the following period of time has elapsed from the date of the arrest of such individual:

(I) If the offense is a misdemeanor or a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, two years;

(II) If the offense is a felony, other than a Serious violent felony [see 17-10-6.1]or a felony sexual offense specified in Code Section 17-3-2.1 involving a victim under 16 years of age, four years; or

(III) If the offense is a serious violent felony or a felony sexual offense specified in Code Section 17-3-2.1 involving a victim under 16 years of age, seven years.

If the center receives notice of the filing of an indictment subsequent to the restriction of a record pursuant to this division, the center shall make such record available in accordance with Code Section 35-3-34.

(B) The case was referred to the prosecuting attorney but was later dismissed; or

 

(C) The grand jury returned two no bills; and

 

(2) After indictment or accusation:

 

(A) Except as provided in subsection (i) of this Code section, all charges were dismissed or nolle prossed;

(B) The individual pleaded guilty to or was found guilty of possession of a narcotic drug, marijuana, or stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic drug and was sentenced in accordance with the provisions of Code Section 16-13-2, and the individual successfully completed the terms and conditions of his or her probation;

(C) The individual successfully completed a drug court treatment program or mental health treatment program, the individual's case has been dismissed or nolle prossed, and he or she has not been arrested for at least five years, excluding any arrest for a nonserious traffic offense; or

(D) The individual was acquitted of all of the charges by a judge or jury unless, within ten days of the verdict, the prosecuting attorney demonstrates to the trial court through clear and convincing evidence that the harm otherwise resulting to the individual is clearly outweighed by the public interest in the criminal history record information being publicly available because either:

(i) The prosecuting attorney was barred from introducing material evidence against the individual on legal grounds, including, without limitation, the granting of a motion to suppress or motion in limine; or

(ii) The individual has been formally charged with the same or similar offense within the previous five years.

(i) After the filing of an indictment or accusation, an individual's criminal history record information shall not be restricted if:

(1) The charges were nolle prossed or otherwise dismissed because:

(A) Of a plea agreement resulting in a conviction of the individual for an offense arising out of the same underlying transaction or occurrence as the conviction;

(B) The prosecuting attorney was barred from introducing material evidence against the individual on legal grounds, including, without limitation, the granting of a motion to suppress or motion in limine;

(C) The conduct which resulted in the arrest of the individual was part of a pattern of criminal activity which was prosecuted in another court of the state or a foreign nation; or

(D) The individual had diplomatic, consular, or similar immunity or inviolability from arrest or prosecution;

(2) The charges were tried and some but not all of the charges resulted in an acquittal; or 

(3) The individual was acquitted of all charges but it is later determined that the acquittal was the result of jury tampering or judicial misconduct.

(j)

(1) When an individual had felony charges dismissed or nolle prossed or was found not guilty of felony charges but was convicted of a misdemeanor offense or offenses arising out of the same underlying transaction or occurrence, such individual may petition the superior court in the county where the arrest occurred to restrict access to criminal history record information for such felony charges within four years of the arrest. Such court shall maintain jurisdiction over the case for this limited purpose and duration. Such petition shall be served on the arresting law enforcement agency and the prosecuting attorney. If a hearing is requested, such hearing shall be held within 90 days of the filing of the petition. The court shall hear evidence and shall grant an order restricting such criminal history record information if the court determines the charges in question did not arise out of the same underlying transaction or occurrence.

(2) When an individual was convicted of an offense and was sentenced to punishment other than the death penalty, but such conviction was vacated by the trial court or reversed by an appellate court or other post-conviction court, the decision of which has become final by the completion of the appellate process, and the prosecuting attorney has not retried the case within two years of the date the order vacating or reversing the conviction became final, such individual may petition the superior court in the county where the conviction occurred to restrict access to criminal history record information for such offense. Such court shall maintain jurisdiction over the case for this limited purpose and duration. Such petition shall be served on the prosecuting attorney. If a hearing is requested, such hearing shall be held within 90 days of the filing of the petition. The court shall hear evidence and shall determine whether granting an order restricting such criminal history record information is appropriate, giving due consideration to the reason the judgment was reversed or vacated, the reason the prosecuting attorney has not retried the case, and the public's interest in the criminal history record information being publicly available.

(3) When an individual's case has remained on the dead docket for more than 12 months, such individual may petition the superior court in the county where the case is pending to restrict access to criminal history record information for such offense. Such petition shall be served on the prosecuting attorney. If a hearing is requested, such hearing shall be held within 90 days of the filing of the petition. The court shall hear evidence and shall determine whether granting an order restricting such criminal history record information is appropriate, giving due consideration to the reason the case was placed on the dead docket; provided, however, that the court shall not grant such motion if an active warrant is pending for such individual

(4)

(A) When an individual was convicted in this state of a misdemeanor or a series of misdemeanors arising from a single incident, and at the time of such conviction such individual was a youthful offender, provided that such individual successfully completed the terms of his or her sentence and, since completing the terms of his or her sentence, has not been arrested for at least five years, excluding any arrest for a nonserious traffic offense, and provided, further, that he or she was not convicted in this state of a misdemeanor violation or under any other state's law with similar provisions of one or more of the offenses listed in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph, he or she may petition the superior court in the county where the conviction occurred to restrict access to criminal history record information. Such court shall maintain jurisdiction over the case for this limited purpose and duration. Such petition shall be served on the prosecuting attorney. If a hearing is requested, such hearing shall be held within 90 days of the filing of the petition. The court shall hear evidence and shall determine whether granting an order restricting such criminal history record information is appropriate, giving due consideration to the individual's conduct and the public's interest in the criminal history record information being publicly available.

(B) Record restriction shall not be appropriate if the individual was convicted of:

(i) Child molestation in violation of Code Section 16-6-4;

(ii) Enticing a child for indecent purposes in violation of Code Section 16-6-5; 

(iii) Sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority in violation of Code Section 16-6-5.1;

(iv) Keeping a place of prostitution in violation of Code Section 16-6-10; (v) Pimping in violation of Code Section 16-6-11;

(vi) Pandering by compulsion in violation of Code Section 16-6-14; (vii) Masturbation for hire in violation of Code Section 16-6-16;

(viii) Giving massages in a place used for lewdness, prostitution, assignation, or masturbation for hire in violation of Code Section 16-6-17;

(ix) Sexual battery in violation of Code Section 16-6-22.1; 

(x) Any offense related to minors generally in violation of Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 12 of Title 16; 

(xi) Theft in violation of Chapter 8 of Title 16; provided, however, that such prohibition shall not apply to a misdemeanor conviction of shoplifting in violation of Code Section 16-8-14; or

(xii) Any serious traffic offense in violation of Article 15 of Chapter 6 of Title 40.

(5) Any party may file an appeal of an order entered pursuant to this subsection as provided in Code Section 5-6-34.

(k)

(1) The center shall notify the arresting law enforcement agency of any criminal history record information, access to which has been restricted pursuant to this Code section, within 30 days of the date access to such information is restricted. Upon receipt of notice from the center that access to criminal history record information has been restricted, the arresting law enforcement agency or other law enforcement agency shall, within 30 days, restrict access to all such information maintained by such arresting law enforcement agency or other law enforcement agency for such individual's charge.

(2) An individual who has had criminal history record information restricted pursuant to this Code section may submit a written request to the appropriate county or municipal jail or detention center to have all records for such individual's charge maintained by the appropriate county or municipal jail or detention center restricted. Within 30 days of such request, the appropriate county or municipal jail or detention center shall restrict access to all such criminal history record information maintained by such appropriate county or municipal jail or detention center for such individual's charge.

(3) The center shall be authorized to unrestrict criminal history record information based on the receipt of a disposition report showing that the individual was convicted of an offense arising out of an arrest of which the information was restricted pursuant to this Code section.

(l) If criminal history record information is restricted pursuant to this Code section and if the entity declines to restrict access to such information, the individual may file a civil action in the superior court where the entity is located. A copy of the civil action shall be served on the entity and prosecuting attorney for the jurisdiction where the civil action is filed, and they may become parties to the action. A decision of the entity shall be upheld only if it is determined by clear and convincing evidence that the individual did not meet the criteria set forth in subsection (h) or (j) of this Code section.

(m)

(1) For criminal history record information maintained by the clerk of court, an individual who has a record restricted pursuant to this Code section may petition the court with original jurisdiction over the charges in the county where the clerk of court is located for an order to seal all criminal history record information maintained by the clerk of court for such individual's charge. Notice of such petition shall be sent to the clerk of court and the prosecuting attorney. A notice sent by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery shall be sufficient notice.

(2) The court shall order all criminal history record information in the custody of the clerk of court, including within any index, to be restricted and unavailable to the public if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that:

(A) The criminal history record information has been restricted pursuant to this Code section; and

(B) The harm otherwise resulting to the privacy of the individual clearly outweighs the public interest in the criminal history record information being publicly available.

(3) Within 60 days of the court's order, the clerk of court shall cause every document, physical or electronic, in its custody, possession, or control to be restricted.

(4) The person who is the subject of such sealed criminal history record information may petition the court for inspection of the criminal history record information included in the court order. Such information shall always be available for inspection, copying, and use by criminal justice agencies and the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

(n)

(1) As to arrests occurring before July 1, 2013, an individual may, in writing, request the arresting law enforcement agency to restrict the criminal history record information of an arrest, including any fingerprints or photographs taken in conjunction with such arrest. Reasonable fees shall be charged by the arresting law enforcement agency and the center for the actual costs of restricting such records, provided that such fee shall not exceed $50.00.

(2) Within 30 days of receipt of such written request, the arresting law enforcement agency shall provide a copy of the request to the prosecuting attorney. Within 90 days of receiving the request, the prosecuting attorney shall review the request to determine if he or she agrees to record restriction, and the prosecuting attorney shall notify the arresting law enforcement agency of his or her decision within such 90 day period. The arresting law enforcement agency shall inform the individual of the prosecuting attorney's decision, and, if record restriction is approved by the prosecuting attorney, the arresting law enforcement agency shall restrict the criminal history record information within 30 days of receipt of the prosecuting attorney's decision.

(3) If a prosecuting attorney declines an individual's request to restrict access to criminal history record information, such individual may file a civil action in the superior court where the entity is located. A copy of the civil action shall be served on the entity and prosecuting attorney for the jurisdiction where the civil action is filed, and they may become parties to the action. A decision of the prosecuting attorney shall not be upheld if it is determined by clear and convincing evidence that the harm otherwise resulting to the privacy of the individual clearly outweighs the public interest in the criminal history record information being publicly available.

(4) To restrict criminal history record information at the center, an individual shall submit a prosecuting attorney's approved record restriction request or a court order issued pursuant to paragraph (3) of this subsection to the center. The center shall restrict access to such criminal history record information within 30 days from receiving such information.

(o) Nothing in this Code section shall give rise to any right which may be asserted as a defense to a criminal prosecution or serve as the basis for any motion that may be filed in any criminal proceeding. The modification, correction, supplementation, amendment, or restriction of criminal history record information shall not abate or serve as the basis for the reversal of any criminal conviction.

(p) Any application to the center for access to or restriction of criminal history record information made pursuant to this Code section shall be made in writing on a form approved by the center. The center shall be authorized to develop and publish such procedures as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Code section. In adopting such procedures and forms, the provisions of Chapter 13 of Title 50, the 'Georgia Administrative Procedure Act,' shall not apply.(q) It shall be the duty of the entity to take such action as may be reasonable to prevent disclosure of information to the public which would identify any individual whose criminal history record information is restricted pursuant to this Code section.

(r) If the center has notified a firearms dealer that an individual is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a handgun pursuant to Part 5 of Article 4 of Chapter 11 of Title 16 and if the prohibition is the result of such individual being involuntarily hospitalized within the immediately preceding five years, upon such individual or his or her attorney making an application to inspect his or her records, the center shall provide the record of involuntary hospitalization and also inform the individual or attorney of his or her right to a hearing before the judge of the probate court or superior court relative to such individual's eligibility to possess or transport a handgun."

 

 Our main offices are located in Marietta near the Cobb County Superior Courthouse. Attorneys John SteakleyJR Awotona and John Haldi are available Monday through Friday from 9:00 - 5:00, with additional hours by appointment. All initial consultations are free in our office or in jail, as needed. Contact us online or call (404) 835-7595.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make a Payment

We accept most major credit cards.

pay-now-button

PayPal Acceptance Mark

Contact Us

540 Powder Springs Street
Suite D-22
Marietta, GA 30064

You are here: Home FAQs Restriction of Records