Are Criminal Records Public In Georgia?
Per the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA), criminal history records must be withheld except for portions of criminal histories containing felony convictions. However, per OCGA § 35–3–34 (d.2), relevant law enforcement agencies are authorized to provide public access to felony conviction records without the consent of the person whose record is being checked.
The Georgia Code also allows private persons and businesses to obtain criminal history records of other persons if a signed consent and other personal details of the person are provided as prescribed by the relevant law enforcement agency. Note that juvenile records and criminal records that have been expunged are not available to the public. Georgia criminal records can be obtained from the Sheriff’s Offices, Police Departments, or the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC).
What Is Included In A Criminal Record In Georgia?
Criminal records, also known as “rap sheets,” are documents detailing the criminal activity of a person who has been convicted of a crime. It includes crime-related information such as arrest details, parameters of indictment, dispositions, and conviction data. Criminal records in Georgia are gathered from all levels of government, ranging from local to state level and includes records from the courts and state-run correctional facilities.
Criminal records in Georgia contain information such as:
- The full name and other known aliases of the subject
- Biographical information such as date of birth, height, weight, race/ethnicity, gender, and social security number
- Mugshots and fingerprints
- Past and present indictments
- Arrest records and pending arrest warrants
- Conviction and inmate information.
How To Look Up My Criminal Records In Georgia?
Official criminal records are kept and distributed by the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) division of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). Requesters can obtain a copy from the various Sheriff’s Offices or the local police departments in Georgia counties and cities. Note that a completed consent form, a proof of identification (driver’s license, Georgia photo ID, or a social security card), and payment of applicable fees will be required before obtaining a criminal history record from most local law enforcement agencies in Georgia.
Unlike the local law enforcement agency, which conducts name-based criminal history record checks, the GCIC only provides fingerprint-based criminal record checks. Fingerprint-based criminal record checks are usually done for employment, licensing, and other non-criminal justice purposes. Agencies or businesses seeking a Georgia criminal record check for employment or licensing purposes must use the online Georgia Applicant Processing Service (GAPS).
However, GAPS requires such agencies first to obtain an account number. GAPS has fingerprinting sites in several locations in Georgia for applicants to get fingerprinted. Criminal records are available for agencies to retrieve from the GAPS website, usually within 24 to 48 hours from fingerprinting. Note that a service fee applies and is handled by the GAPS website. A valid photo-ID must also be presented at the fingerprint location.
The Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) maintains a website (Georgia Felon Search) that provides requesters with an option to request in-state felony conviction records. Through the Georgia Felon Search tool, individuals can submit a request through the GCIC to verify whether a person has committed or was convicted of felony offenses in Georgia. A fee of $15 is attached to each search on the Georgia Felon Search.
Note that a search that returns “No Record Found” still costs the requester $15. For more information about obtaining criminal history records, contact the GCIC at (404) 244–2639(5) or firstname.lastname@example.org. The GCIC is open Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
How Can I Get My Criminal Records For Free In Georgia?
Official criminal records cannot be obtained for free in Georgia. The Georgia Criminal Information Center does not offer a waiver for the processing fee. Persons seeking to obtain criminal records will have to pay a nominal fee at the Sheriff’s Offices or the police departments before requests are granted.
How To Search Criminal Records Online In Georgia?
Georgia citizens can access criminal records online through the Georgia Felon Search. The search tool is a fast and affordable resource that helps individuals conduct checks on people straight from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation database.
Requesters must provide data in the required format to enable the tool to fetch results from the GBI database. The required felon data are first name, last name, sex, and the date of birth. If the offender information provided does not match any entry in the database, a result of “No records found” is returned. Each search or rap sheet viewed costs $15. The fee is payable by credit card if the requester does not own a billing account on the search portal.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a 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 the 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 Get My Criminal Records Expunged In Georgia?
According to the Official Code of Georgia OCGA §35–3–37, an offender in Georgia may request a restriction of criminal records if specific criteria are met. More precisely, Georgia refers to its record-relief statute as Record Restriction and not expungement. Although expungement under other states’ law implies that a person’s criminal records will be deleted or destroyed, record restriction means criminal histories are only denied from public view. In Georgia, such records remain accessible to law enforcement agencies for criminal justice purposes.
In Georgia, record restriction does not apply to all entries on a person’s criminal record as a whole, only to specific eligible charges. Individuals with multiple charges have to apply for the restriction of each charge independently to have an entire criminal record restricted from public access. Per section 35.5–37 of the Georgia Code, certain criminal charges are ineligible for restriction. Felony convictions and charges such as convictions for sexual assault, sexual battery, serious traffic offenses, child molestation, theft, computer pornography, and reckless driving do not qualify for restriction.
Criminal records in Georgia may be restricted automatically or by a petition from the offender. Persons arrested but whose case was never referred for prosecution will have arrest records restricted automatically after the expiration of a specified period. The length of waiting time required depends on the severity of the crime for which the offender was arrested. Generally, statutes of limitations are:
- Two years for misdemeanors
- Four years for felonies
- Seven years for severe violent and sex-related felonies
An automatic restriction of criminal record also applies in situations where:
- A case was referred for prosecution but ultimately dismissed.
- The grand jury returned two no-bills
- The charge was dismissed or nolle prossed
- An offender was sentenced under a conditional discharge
- The grand jury returned one no-bill, and the statute of limitations has expired
- The offender has completed a drug court treatment program, mental health treatment program, or veterans’ treatment program
- The defendant was acquitted in court (except in cases where the prosecution challenges record restriction within ten days of sentencing)
Note that if a prosecutor decided to take up a case, a criminal record that has been automatically restricted becomes unrestricted until the final determination of the case. Also, criminal records will not be automatically restricted in cases where a defendant entered a plea resulting in a conviction for a separate offense stemming from the same events, or if the defendant was acquitted as a result of judicial misconduct or jury tampering.
The automatic restriction holds for persons arrested after July 1, 2013. However, persons arrested before July 1, 2013, who are eligible for automatic restrictions may have to apply at the arresting agency to have a criminal record restricted. The arresting agency may charge a fee, which may not exceed $50 under the Georgia Code. Applicants are required to obtain a three-section Record Restriction form from the arresting agency. The sections must be completed and signed by the applicant, arresting agency, and prosecuting attorney, respectively. Afterward, the prosecutor or the clerk of court submits the information into the database used by the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC). Subsequently, the arresting agency gets a notification that the criminal record has been successfully restricted.
In situations where the prosecutor could not add the information to the GCIC database, the application is sent back to the arresting agency. The applicant then becomes responsible for ensuring the application gets to GCIC. GCIC requires a $25 processing fee, which may be paid by money order or check made payable to “Georgia Bureau of Investigation.” Mail approved application and money to:
Georgia Crime Information Center
PO. Box 370808
Decatur, GA 30037–0808
Applicants will get an email notification when a restriction has been placed on the specific criminal record in question. The notification usually happens within 30 days of the entry of the disposition into the GCIC’s database. Application status may be checked by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling the GCIC service desk at (404) 244–2639 (Option 1).
Georgia citizens with criminal records that do not qualify for automatic restrictions may be eligible to file a petition with the appropriate court. Record restriction by petition will apply if an offender:
- Has a felony charge dismissed but was found guilty of an unrelated misdemeanor
- Has a conviction vacated or reversed by an appellate court
- Has a case “dead docketed” for more than 12 months
- Was prosecuted for a misdemeanor as a youthful offender
- Has not been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in the last five years
The process to seal court records are as follows:
- Obtain a copy of the official GCIC criminal history record from a local law enforcement agency. The official criminal record may be necessary for a petitioner to be certain about the specific information included in the official record.
- Obtain a certified copy of the final disposition from the clerk of court.
- Prepare the motion.
- Sign and date the motion.
- Provide the case number of the criminal case.
- Include the Offender Tracking Number (OTN).
- Attach the final disposition of the original case and any other required documentation. Do not attach a copy of the criminal history.
- Attach any other documentation showing the presence of a criminal history is causing harm. An applicant may include a letter of employment or housing denials resulting from the criminal record.
- Make three copies of the documents.
- Submit the Motion, Certificate of Service, and Draft of Order at the criminal division of the superior court in the Georgia county where the offense occurred.
- Personally file or mail a copy of the Motion and Draft Order to the office of the prosecuting attorney in the original case.
In situations where an applicant has requested a hearing, the judge will hear testimony about the suitability of a restriction within 90 days. If the judge determines a record restriction is appropriate, an order will be signed and is expected to be filed with the clerk of the superior court by the applicant. Sample motion documentation may be found on the Georgia Justice Project website.
In cases where charges were originally handled at a court other than the superior court, a civil petition must be filed with the superior court to restrict a record. In that wise, there will be a petition fee of $200. Persons who cannot afford the fee must file a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Affidavit of Indigency with the petition for restriction. A copy of the Petition and Draft Order must be delivered or filed with the prosecuting attorney in the original case. If the judge determines that a record restriction is appropriate, the signed order from the judge must be taken to the clerk of court that resolved the case.
Who Can See My Expunged/sealed Criminal Records In Georgia?
Per OCGA § 35–3–37, criminal records that have been expunged are restricted and cannot be accessed by the general public. Restricted records are only accessible to judicial officials and criminal justice agencies for criminal investigative or law enforcement purposes. Criminal justice agencies may also access restricted records for employment purposes in line with the established procedures of the Georgia Criminal Information Center.
Under sections 35–3–34 and 35–3–35 of the Georgia Code, officials and law enforcement agencies are prohibited from disclosing restricted information to any private persons, businesses, governmental agencies, or licensing and regulating agencies. Persons who have successfully restricted criminal records are still obliged to disclose an arrest history to potential employers. However, ensure the employers are aware that there was no conviction and that the restriction process is complete.