How to Expunge Criminal Records and Seal Arrest Reconds

Expungement and sealing of records

How to Expunge Criminal Records and Seal Arrest Records

Why should you be concerned about your criminal record?

A criminal record can negatively affect many aspects of your life such as employment opportunities, buying a home, adopting a child, voting rights, immigration status, licensing and many more. 1 in 3 people in the State of Georgia have a criminal record and 1 in 13 people are under correctional supervision, parole or probation. Here are a few things you need to know if you have a criminal record:

  • 90% of employers check criminal histories when reviewing employment applications;
  • 64% of employers considers arrests and charges that did not lead to a conviction;
  • Criminal records reduce the chances of a call back from a prospective employer by 50%;
  • Negative effects from a criminal record are greater for African-Americans and Hispanics;
  • Georgia has the lowest rate for employment with a criminal record.

What exactly is a criminal record? 

A criminal record shows all of the information listed on an individual’s Georgia Crime Information Center (G.C.I.C.) criminal history report. This includes:

  • Arrests;
  • Arresting agencies;
  • Charges;
  • Accusations;
  • Indictments;
  • Convictions;
  • Acquittals;
  • Dispositions;
  • Sentencing;
  • Detention;
  • Incarceration;
  • Correctional supervision; and
  • Release dates.

There are two types of criminal records

Official and Unofficial

An official criminal record is from the Georgia Crime Information Center (G.C.I.C.), the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (G.B.I.) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I.). Official criminal records are regulated by the agencies they stem from and are primarily used for law enforcement purposes.

An unofficial criminal record are those produced by privately owned third-party background investigation companies. These unofficial criminal records are mostly unregulated and often produce inaccurate reports.

What can you do about your criminal record?

The expungement procedure (as of July 1, 2013 expungements are called restrictions pursuant O.C.G.A. §35-3-37) of a criminal record is the process in which information on someone’s criminal history report is sealed and made private. Once the expungement process is complete, someone’s criminal record cannot be released to the public. The only way a criminal history report will be used after it has been expunged is for law enforcement purposes. Therefore, if you file an expungement application and it is approved, law enforcement agencies maintain access but employers, licensing agencies and third-party background investigation companies will no longer be able to obtain copies of any criminal record reports. Eligibility for expungement (restriction) depends on how the criminal case was resolved.

Expungement (Restriction) Guidelines

Felony convictions are never eligible for expungement. It does not matter which type of felony offense was committed. If you are convicted of a felony, the arrest, charge, or conviction will not be eligible for expungement (restriction).

Some misdemeanor convictions are eligible for expungement. To learn more about misdemeanors that qualify for expungement under the Conditional Discharge and Youthful Offender statutes, read through our expungement, restrictions and sealing of the record link.

Dismissals or Nolle Prosequi

If your case was dismissed or Nolle Prossed, you may file an expungement application to have your arrest restricted and your criminal history sealed. Exceptions to this are:

  • If you plead guilty to another charge stemming from the same arrest;
  • If you are prosecuted in another jurisdiction for the same pattern of criminal activity;
  • If important evidence was suppressed; and
  • If you received immunity.


If you have been acquitted of all charges stemming from an arrest, you may file an expungement application to have your arrest restricted and your criminal history sealed unless there was judicial misconduct or jury tampering.

Conditional Discharge

Under the Conditional Discharge statute, first time offenders may file an expungement application if they plead guilty to a possession charge and successfully completed all of the sentencing conditions imposed by the court.

Youthful Offender Convictions

If a person under 21-years of age is convicted of a misdemeanor and has successfully completed all sentencing requirements and has not been arrested in 5-years, then the individual may file a petition requesting their case to be expunged and their arrest sealed.

Drug and Mental Health Court

An individual whose case was referred to drug or mental health court, may file a petition requesting to expunge the their record 5-years after completion of all court requirements.

Charged With Felony But Convicted Of Unrelated Misdemeanor 

If an individual has been charged with one or more felonies but is subsequently convicted of only misdemeanor offenses, then they may file an expungement petition with the Superior Court located in the jurisdiction where the arrest occurred.

Dead Docketed Cases

When a case has been placed on the court’s dead docket for a consecutive 12-month period, meaning that a formal criminal accusation has not been filed by the prosecuting official, then one may petition the Superior Court located in the jurisdiction where the arrest occurred to consider an expungement of the criminal record.

Reversed Or Vacated

Any one may file a petition to expunge their criminal record and seal their arrest if a conviction was vacated or reversed by the appellate court as long as the prosecuting official has not retried the case within 2-years of the date when the order vacating or reversing the conviction became final.

Reach out to us if you have a question. Put our expungement law experience to work for you.


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