Atlanta Expungement Lawyer

On August 5, 2020, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 288 (SB 288) into law. The bill took effect on January 1, 2021, and provides Georgia residents new options for expunging a criminal record. Under the new law, many types of misdemeanor charges, including some types of theft and assault charges, may be restricted or sealed under certain conditions. The bill also offers potential protections that could help individuals with a criminal record seek housing or employment in Georgia.

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Details on the New Expungement Law

Under SB 288, a Georgia resident can petition the court to restrict or seal off a misdemeanor conviction from their criminal record under certain conditions. A four-year waiting period following the completion of a sentence must be met before a conviction is eligible for expungement. No other convictions or pending charges can occur during the waiting period. Some types of offenses, such as sex crimesDUI, and family violence, may be ineligible for expungement.

The expanded expungement options under SB 288 could offer protections to 4.3 million Georgians with a criminal record. According to the Georgia Justice Project, misdemeanor convictions can negatively affect a person’s ability to access housing, wage growth, and employment. Restricted or sealed charges may not appear on employer background checks, so a person may be able to remove some of the adverse effects of a prior misdemeanor conviction.

Many individuals may experience difficulty navigating record restriction laws in Georgia without legal representation. An experienced Atlanta expungement lawyer from Yates & Wheland could evaluate the specifics of your case and help you determine your options. To speak to a member of our knowledgeable legal team, contact a criminal defense attorney today.

Change in Expungement Laws

Expungement no longer exists in Georgia as it once did just a few short years ago. Prior to the summer of 2013, expungement in its old form would actually result in your record being wiped clean – leaving you with a “clean slate”. However, in Georgia, after July 1, 2013, the legal term “expungement” was replaced with “records restriction”. Records restriction means that the incident, if restricted, will not show up on the publicly available criminal history that everyone has access to.

Typically this takes place after an individual completes some sort of program or set of conditions after an arrest, at which point the individual’s official history as maintained by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and nationally, by the FBI, will be restricted in a way where someone who publicly accesses your criminal record does not see that particular event. For information on whether you are eligible to have your record sealed in Atlanta, call a lawyer today.

How Records Restriction Works

Records restriction in Atlanta is available in some criminal cases, usually, when you are not convicted of a crime. Some examples of when a practiced lawyer in Atlanta may be able to have your record sealed include:

  • The District Attorney did not indict your case,
  • The Solicitor General did not file an accusation, they declined to prosecute your case,
  • If you went to trial and were found not guilty of a charge, or
  • If you entered a pre-trial diversion program where the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the charges you were facing upon successful completion of a series of conditions; such as community service, anger management classes, domestic violence classes, or drug rehabilitation.

Different jurisdictions offer different pre-trial diversion programs; and some prosecutors, such as the Gwinnett County District Attorney do not offer diversion programs at all.

Steps to Take After Trial

After your case is over or after the prosecutor has dismissed the case, paperwork is filed with the Clerk of the Court. Then the Clerk enters information in a computer system that is linked to the Georgia Crime Information Center database. If the Clerk checks a specific box when entering the information about your case then your record is restricted.

If the Clerk does not check that specific box, then the record will not be restricted and it will display on your official criminal history. If you are in a situation where your record should be restricted, you should obtain a copy of your criminal history at the completion of your case. After a short of period of time, you should go to a police station and obtain a copy of your criminal history to double-check and make sure that the record has been restricted.

Differences Between Expungement and Records Restriction

Although most people may not be able to see the offense, it is important to remember that it is no longer a completely clean slate. An example of a specific event on your criminal history could be a DUI that was dismissed or a fight with your spouse that was a big misunderstanding, but the neighbors called the cops. That arrest, even with records restriction, does not disappear for a subset of law enforcement.

Prosecutors, judges, and police are always going to be able to see that you have been arrested. Even though a particular charge may have been resolved favorably for you; and publicly, no one else can see it, there is a subset of law enforcement that will always be able to see, always be able to have access to, and may attempt to hold that over your head later if you find yourself back in a courtroom facing criminal charges. As a result, it is important to consult with an attorney familiar  Atlanta today.

Benefits of an Atlanta Expungement Attorney

Our team has the knowledge and the ability to attempt to protect your record, whether it is at the outset and you are facing charges, or your case was resolved years ago and you need to clean your record up. An experienced Atlanta expungement lawyer could help clean it up and get your mind right with the confidence to go face the world without something following you around that may inhibit your opportunities down the road. Call us today for help.