What Is an Expungement?
The definition of the word expunge is “to erase or remove completely.” Someone can expunge information from their resume or dating history, for example. In a legal context, we use the word “expunge” to mean removing parts of a person’s criminal record.
Typically, we say that those records have been “sealed.” This means they are no longer part of the public record and are erased from someone’s criminal history. Only the authorities will have access to this information for their own investigative purposes.
In early August of 2020, Georgia signed exciting new expungement freedoms into law, which went into effect on January 1, 2021. Under this revision, former offenders can now petition the courts to have up to two separate misdemeanors pulled from their record.
There are exceptions. Misdemeanors ineligible for expungement include:
- sex crimes
- crimes against a minor
- family violence crimes
Also, the requester needs to currently be in good legal standing. They can apply to have only their most recent misdemeanor expunged. There can’t be any other charges or sentences against them since then.
This change in law now applies to some actual convictions. Prior to this, it was possible to expunge only cases that were dropped or dismissed. Arrest records were expungable, not convictions. Felonies that were pardoned can also be sealed. Like misdemeanors, this does not apply to certain sexual or violent crimes.
Why Get an Expungement?
An expungement is a fresh start. Once the process is finished, parts of a person’s criminal record are gone from their record. They no longer appear in background checks. This is wonderful news for potential employment opportunities. A mistake made years ago no longer needs to haunt people who were having a difficult time getting work.
Expungement helps not only in employment but in any process that requires a background check. Having misdemeanors sealed will help in home hunting, banking, and even some dating websites.
How to Get an Expungement in Georgia
If you want parts of your record expunged, the process requires some time and legwork. First, you can go to any police department and ask for your criminal record. They will likely charge you a fee of around $25, and then they will give you a printout of your record.
From there, you need to acquire a Request to Expunge Arrest Record. There are three sections of this form. You fill out section one. It is important to be very meticulous when filling out this form. Any mistakes at all could result in the whole form being denied, and the fees will not be refunded. If there are multiple dates of arrest, you’ll need to complete a separate Request to Expunge Arrest Record for each date. If there are multiple charges for only one arrest, you can submit a single form for those charges.
From there, the arresting agency fills out Section 2. Once done, they send it over to the prosecutor. Then you go to a hearing before the court where you can argue your case. Everything depends on this last step. The prosecutor can deny the expungement, leaving the criminal record intact.
For this reason, it’s highly beneficial to secure a good lawyer who can help with the process. First, they can go over the application, and, using their expertise, find any mistakes or items that would cause the application to get denied. Next, lawyers have the experience and know-how to argue a case before prosecutors. When prosecutors know there is a lawyer overlooking the process, it encourages them to be careful.
Georgia’s expungement law can be life-changing for good people who made mistakes. It gives them the opportunity for a clean slate and a new lease on life.
If you have questions about an expungement of your record, we want to help. Our Athens expungement attorney at the Law Offices of J. Lee Webb offers a free consultation to discuss your case at no risk to you. You can call us at (706) 705-5122 or contact us online.