How to Expunge a Criminal Record in Atlanta

If you've been arrested and/or convicted of a criminal charge in Atlanta, you probably don't want that information lingering on your criminal history. Your criminal record can impact your employment opportunities, housing, credit, immigration status, and more. Chances are, if you've ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, your criminal record is likely to be stored in a national and/or state database. The Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) keeps a record of all of your arrests or convictions in the state of Georgia.

Here at FindLaw we've compiled some information to assist you, although as you'll see below, your options may be limited.

Can I "Expunge" My Atlanta Criminal Conviction?

We wish we could say yes, but we'd be lying. If you've been convicted, including if you've pled guilty or "nolo contendere" in a Fulton County Court, you can't get it expunged from your record. Ever. In Georgia, criminal convictions just aren't eligible for expungement. Period. Your criminal record will always contain information about the conviction. With few exceptions, a conviction is permanent and will remain on your permanent criminal record forever, and your record cannot be restricted.

What About a Pardon? Will That Clear the Conviction Off My Record?

No. Restoring your civil rights and getting pardoned will not erase the record from the GCIC report or undo your crime or conviction. If you are seeking a pardon, contact the State Board of Pardon & Paroles or contact a qualified Atlanta criminal defense attorney.

Can I "Expunge" My Atlanta Arrest Record?

Now we can say yes, but only in limited circumstances. If you've been arrested, you might be able to limit who has access to that information. As of July 1st, 2013 a law went into effect known as "record restriction."

"Restriction" means that your criminal history record information relating to a particular charge will only be available to judicial officials and criminal justice agencies for law enforcement or criminal investigative purposes or to criminal justice agencies for purposes of employment. It can't be disclosed or made available to any private persons or businesses.

What If I Was Arrested After July 1st, 2013? Do I Have to Do Anything?

No, if you were arrested after that date, your record should be automatically restricted -- if you qualify. However, if your arrest or acquittal happened before July 1st, 2013, read on. You may have some some legwork to do. This is a complicated process and you may want to talk to a lawyer before filing any paperwork.

Am I Eligible to Have My Criminal Record Restricted?

Record restriction applies in very limited circumstances and you don't have an absolute right to it. The prosecutor makes that determination. You can't have any other pending against you. Also, you must not have been convicted of the same or similar offense within the last 5 years.

Your eligibility then depends on what happened after your arrest. This is known as the "final disposition" of your case. Here are some examples of when you would be eligible for a record restriction:

  1. The Prosecutor Never Filed an Indictment or Accusation: This typically happens if you were arrested, released, and the police agency didn't send your case to the prosecutor's office or the solicitor general's office to be filed. Or, the prosecutor did review the police report, but decided not to file an indictment or accusation. Basically, no formal charges were ever filed by anyone.
  2. The Prosecutor Filed an Indictment or Accusation but… Your charges were dismissed or "nolo prossed," or your case was "dead-docketed" by the prosecutor for 12 months.

Here are some other situations where you might be eligible for a record restriction. Note, time limits and other stipulations may apply:

  • A grand jury did not return a bill of indictment (no bill);
  • You were acquitted/found "not guilty" after a trial by judge or jury;
  • Your case was dismissed because a material witness refused to testify;
  • Your case was dismissed because of judicial economy;
  • Your case was dismissed because you successfully completed a pretrial diversion program that did not specifically allow restriction (expungement)
  • You successfully completed a sentence and are off probation on a drug possession charge under 16-13-2, a drug offense conditional discharge. (This disposition is a type of first offender treatment where you end up not being convicted of the offense);
  • You successfully completed a drug or mental health treatment program;
  • You were convicted of a specific misdemeanor when you were under age 21 (Youthful Offender Program);
  • Your conviction was vacated or reversed;
  • Your felony charge was dismissed but you were convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor.

Are Certain Types of Crimes Barred From Any Record Restrictions?

Yes, there are certain situations in which record restriction is not allowed at all. These crimes include like child molestation, prostitution, sexual battery, theft and serious traffic offenses like DUI, vehicular homicide or fleeing the scene of an accident.

How Do I Apply for A Record Restriction?

If you meet the above criteria, here's what you can do. First, you'll have to contact the GCIC or the arresting agency such as the Atlanta Police Department (PDF) or the Fulton County Sheriff. They'll give you an application to fill out and give back to them. It's a good idea to make a copy for your records.

Within 30 days, the police department will send it over to the prosecutor to decide if he or she agrees to the restriction. If so, the prosecutor will notify the arresting agency and they'll restrict your criminal history record within thirty days thereafter. They'll also send the information over to the GCIC, who will restrict your record within 30 more days.

What if the Prosecutor Denies My Record Restriction Request?

Well, if this happens things are could get more complicated. Act quickly -- you'll only have 30 days from your denial to file a lawsuit challenging the denial in the Superior Court or county where the police department is located.

Next Steps: Get a Free Case Review

As you can see, expungements are rather complicated. If you are considering trying to clear your criminal record, let a legal expert assist you. A criminal defense attorney can answer specific questions about your case. You can meet with an attorney to discuss your options today free of charge for the initial consultation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.