Georgia Court Records
Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Georgia
In the state of Georgia, some criminal records are eligible for expungement. However, unlike most states, Georgia expungement laws do not permit the complete removal or erasure of these records but rather restrict access to them. As such, the use of the records is often limited to criminal justice purposes only. Consequently, these records will not be accessible to third parties, such as employers and licensing authorities. The process of expungement in Georgia is known as the Records Restriction process.
Georgia state law provides for restriction of arrest records subject to certain conditions. However, court records with eligible dispositions may also be restricted. Records of offenses that have a ‘guilty’ disposition do not qualify for restriction. Persons named on the record may request a restriction. However, the District Attorney or the appropriate prosecutor must approve the request.
The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records
In most states, expungement is the complete removal or erasure of a record. Persons whose records have been expunged will be treated as if the offense was never committed. Sealing, on the other hand, restricts access to a record. Sealed records can only be accessed by authorized persons, such as persons named on the record, their attorneys and other designated persons, and specific law enforcement agencies.
However, in Georgia, the law only provides one process of record relief, which is the Records Restriction Process. Under O. C. G. A. § 35–3–37, records that have been restricted will only be accessible to criminal justice agencies. Third parties such as employers and license boards will not have access to the records. If the request for restriction is approved, persons named on the record may say that the record does not exist.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Seal a Criminal Record in Georgia
In Georgia, only records of arrests and non-conviction cases are eligible for restriction. Restriction requests can be made within four years of the arrest and must be approved by the prosecuting attorney.
For eligible persons who were arrested after July 1, 2013, no application is required. The prosecutor may approve the restriction at the sentencing. Such persons may also contact the prosecutor directly to request a restriction. The approval will be listed in the sentencing documents and forwarded to the court for filing. Eligible persons arrested before July 1, 2013, may apply by contacting the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) or their arresting agencies. Such persons must complete a request form. The form must be completed by the record holder, the arresting agency, and the prosecutor.
Upon approval by all parties, the prosecutor may submit the restriction information into the Georgia Crime Information Center (G. C. I. C.) database. When the information is uploaded to the database, the arresting agency will be notified of the restriction. The record-holder will also be notified of the restriction by email. A fee of $25 is required.
If the prosecutor cannot submit the information into the G. C. I. C. database, the application will be returned to the arresting agency. The record-holder may be required to submit the completed form to G. C. I. C. Approved application, and the $25 fee can be mailed to:
Georgia Crime Information Center
P. O. Box 370808
Decatur, GA 30037–0808
Application fees can be paid by checks or money orders and should be payable to “Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”
What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Georgia?
According to Georgia’s Open Records Act, public records are available for inspection and copying, except those restricted from public access by state laws or court order. As a result of this, there are only a few crimes eligible for restriction. Requests for restriction are granted only under strict conditions.
Georgia’s Record Restriction law (O. C. G. A. § 35–3–37) offers restricted access to records of arrest if:
- The person was released without prosecution
- Upon referral to a prosecuting attorney, the charges against the arrested person are dismissed, and no accusation or indictment is filed.
- The person has not been convicted of the same or a similar offense under state or federal laws in the last five years
- There are no other criminal charges against the person
Arrest records that can be restricted include photographs and fingerprints documented in connection to the arrest.
Persons charged with felony crimes may apply for restricted access within four years of arrest if:
- The felony charge was dismissed
- The person was found “not guilty” but convicted of a misdemeanor offense
- The misdemeanor was not a lesser offense included with the felony charge
Records of other court dispositions eligible for restriction include:
- Cases that are not presented to the grand jury
- Cases with no record on file
- Cases with no further action anticipated
- Dead docket cases
Georgia law also offers time-expired restrictions for cases where the G. C. I. C. does not receive a final disposition or notice that the case has been referred to a prosecutor:
- For misdemeanors, two years
- For felonies, excluding violent or sexual offenses, four years
- For violent or sexual felony offenses, seven years
How to Expunge Criminal Records in Georgia
Georgia provides for only one method of record relief, which is Records Restriction. The process of application depends on the period of arrest. Persons arrested prior to July 1, 2013, may apply for restriction by contacting the arresting agency and submitting a written request. The restriction request form must be signed by the record holder. It must also be approved by the arresting agency and the prosecuting attorney in the record holder’s case. A fee of $25 is required.
Persons arrested after July 1, 2013, may contact the prosecuting attorney in their case directly to apply for a restriction. Alternatively, the prosecutor may approve the restriction at the sentencing. The approval will be included in the sentencing records and forwarded to the court for filing.
Do Sealed Records Show up In Georgia Background Checks?
No, records restricted following state laws (O. C. G. A. § 35–3–37) do not show up in background checks. However, records under time-expired restrictions may be provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F. B. I.) or other states for non-criminal justice uses.
Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in Georgia?
Restricted records are available to criminal justice agencies and judicial officials. Restricted records are only available for employment in criminal justice agencies or criminal investigative purposes.
How to Obtain Sealed Records in Georgia
In Georgia, restricted records are not available to businesses or private persons. They are only available to judicial and law enforcement officers for criminal justice purposes. Record holders may obtain information about their restricted records by contacting the Georgia Crime Information Center (G. C. I. C.).