A criminal record can tarnish your reputation, complicating your life in ways you may not have imagined when you were first arrested. Instead of just accepting this situation as your fate, consider contacting a knowledgeable criminal attorney to discuss your options.
You may be able to request a records restriction with the help of a Fulton County expungement lawyer.
Authorities maintain formal records of people’s criminal activity, but many people do not know that convictions are not the only events captured in these files. These records also log arrests, dropped charges, acquittals, dismissals, and completion of diversionary and other court-ordered treatment programs. Background checks often reveal this information, which can serve as a roadblock to an individual’s eligibility for loans, housing, educational opportunities, professional licenses, employment openings, and many other prospects.
The implications of a record are far-reaching and frustrating, especially when the interaction with the legal system did not result in sentencing. With an experienced Fulton County expungement lawyer on their side, those with records may be able to overcome the stigma of a criminal history and direct their lives in a positive direction.
When people talk about cleaning up their criminal histories, they often think they can have the past incidents removed from their files. While that may be true in some states, Georgia does not allow expungement or wiping a record clean. Instead, state law provides a process by which individuals may request limiting public access to information about certain judicial proceedings and outcomes.
Once a record is restricted, the public (e.g., an employer or bank) cannot see the covered event on a background check. However, the arrest, conviction, or other contact with the system never disappears from a person’s record. It remains visible to law enforcement, the judiciary, and certain government authorities, and they may consider such information in future criminal matters. An experienced Fulton County expungement attorney could further explain these matters if applicable.
Until recently, individuals could not request the sealing of criminal convictions. Only arrests and other non-conviction dispositions qualified for records restrictions. However, with the passage of SB 288 in August 2020, that has changed.
This bill amends the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 35-3-37, effective January 1, 2021. The revisions allow access limitations for certain offense records by lifting the blanket exclusion on convictions. Individuals may seal a maximum of two misdemeanors four years after completing each sentence if they do not have pending charges.
Select felonies may also qualify if the situation satisfies all of the following conditions, set out in O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(7):
This expansion of the law opens up new opportunities for many individuals, but its recent introduction may create confusion and uneven application. Those seeking a records restriction may find the most success by working with a Fulton County attorney familiar with the local court system.
There is no automatic trigger that seals a person’s record. To secure a records restriction, individuals must petition the court and request the limitation, and the prosecutor must receive notice of the application. The court might limit access if the evidence presented shows that the public’s need for the information is outweighed by the harm continued access would cause the petitioner.
Fulton County lawyers familiar with the expungement process may help individuals present persuasive arguments in favor of granting restrictions.
A criminal record can cast a long shadow on your future. Updates to state record restriction law now allow more people the opportunity to block access to their files. Courts do not automatically grant these requests, so call a Fulton County expungement lawyer today to start the process.