Expungement is a court-ordered process in which the legal record of an arrest or a criminal conviction is "sealed" or erased in the eyes of the law. This process may also be called sealing or setting aside a criminal conviction. Expungment laws exist in every state, but the requirements may vary. The law enables past offenders to have their criminal records kept private so that it is not easily viewed.
By law, Georgia defines expungement as the process of legally destroying, obliterating, or striking out records and information on files, computers, or anything else relating to criminal charges. The records then cannot be accessed for general law enforcement or civil use. The records are destroyed, which includes fingerprint cards, photographs, and documents relating exclusively to the person and incident. Any material which cannot be physically destroyed or which the prosecuting attorney determines must be preserved for Constitutional reasons would be restricted to them only and would not be subject to disclosure to any person.
Georgia permits expungement only when criminal charges against the applicant have been resolved without conviction and the applicant has not been convicted of another crime in the past five years. Expungement is also granted if the applicant has a juvenile record, but not judged delinquent. The State of Georgia does not allow expungement to persons whose charges were noloed, dead-docketed, or dismissed because of a plea agreement resulting in conviction. You would also be ineligible if the conduct which resulted in the arrest was part of a pattern of criminal activity prosecuted in another court.
In the case of a person who was arrested but not convicted, they can make a written request for expungement to the original agency having jurisdiction in their case. Once a written request is received, it is forwarded to the proper, prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney will then review the request to determine if it meets the criteria for expungement.
If the requirements are met, the prosecuting attorney will review the records of the arrest to determine if any of the material must be preserved in order to protect the Constitutional rights of the accused. If an agency declines to expunge the arrest record , the individual may file an action in the Superior Court where the agency is located.
Where suitable, having your records expunged should be considered and pursued. Carrying the burden of a record can limit a person’s potential for advancement in daily life. Having a record can force others to prejudge you based on your past and nothing else. It can limit your potential and possibilities for furthering your career, applying for a loan, or even with finding suitable housing.
Having your case expunged gives you back the confidence you need and ensures a peace of mind. In many cases it is looked at as having a clean slate. No one wants to walk around with the mistakes of their past as a constant reminder. Especially when there is a convenient way to make these mistakes disappear.