FAQs – Criminal Records

Criminal Records

1. Who has a criminal record in Georgia?

If you have ever been arrested, fingerprinted, and charged with any felony offense or certain misdemeanors in Georgia, an official criminal record exists. Misdemeanor
offenses that will appear on your criminal history are those designated as “fingerprintable offenses” by the Attorney General of Georgia. You have a criminal
record even if you did not serve time in jail or if the charges against you were dismissed.

2. How do I get a copy of my criminal history?

When requesting a copy of your criminal history, it is important to know that there are both official and unofficial versions. The official state and national reports are provided
by state and federal bureaus of investigation, and the unofficial reports are provided by private background check companies. Most of the information in this guide covers how to understand and deal with your official criminal history report.

1. State of Georgia:

In Georgia, official criminal history information is kept and distributed by  the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) the state agency that keeps criminal history record information. GCIC is a division of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). You can get a copy of your official GCIC criminal history record from most law enforcement  agencies for a fee.

2. National:

The official national criminal history is kept and distributed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) through the Interstate Identification Index (III). Georgia criminal records information is pulled from GCIC’s database.  This national report, known as the “III Report” is only available to the individual and to a specific list of employers and agencies.  For a list of Georgia statuses that grant access to the III Report, please go to:  http://gcicweb.gbi.state.ga.us/document/public-law-92-544-authorizing-statuses.

Unofficial Sources

Many private companies provide background checks for a fee. The information these companies have on file may differ from the information contained in your official criminal history report. These companies operate websites that allow you to request a copy of your unofficial criminal history.

3. What does my official Georgia criminal history record include?

Your official Georgia criminal history record contains information about every incident for which you were arrested and charged with any felony offense or with certain misdemeanor offenses. It should include the outcome/final disposition and also custodial information if you were incarcerated in a Georgia correctional facility. The official Georgia criminal history may be incomplete, or it may not include the information regarding the outcome/final disposition, if the final disposition was not reported to GCIC by the law enforcement or criminal justice agency maintaining the information.

4. Can employers get my official Georgia criminal history?

When conducting a background check for employment and licensing, there are two ways an employer can access your official Georgia criminal history record. The most common is a name-based check using your personal identifying information (i.e. full name, date of birth and/or social security number). The other method is a fingerprint-based check. For either check, the employer must have your signed consent to access your criminal history record from GCIC. No consent is required, however, to access records of felony convictions.

5. How do I explain my criminal history to employers and others?

Make sure you are fully aware of what potential employers and other decision-makers will see when they check your criminal background. Get a copy of your official criminal history record and at least one unofficial criminal history report. Be sure you know the number of times you have been arrested and whether charge(s) and conviction(s) were misdemeanors or felonies so you can provide correct information to potential employers.

Always answers questions about your criminal history truthfully, but do not provide more information than is requested. When explaining your criminal history, take responsibility for past actions and emphasize how you have moved forward in a positive way. Share positive experiences with potential employers. Potential employers will not be impressed by hearing negative feelings you have about your case.

You may want to draft a brief letter explaining your criminal history to potential employers. You should draft a letter that fits your experience and situation. Your letter should explain how you moved on with your life after your involvement with the criminal justice system.

6. What if I was arrested outside Georgia?

Each state has its own laws regarding criminal history records. Eligibility for expungement, sealing, and pardons varies from state to state. If you were arrested in another state, you should contact a legal services agency in that state for assistance.

How to Explain a Criminal History to Potential Employers and Others

1. Know Your History

Make sure you are fully aware of what potential employers and other decision-makers will see when they check your criminal background. Get a copy of your official Georgia criminal history record from a local police department or sheriff’s office, and, if possible, get a private background report from a provider such as HireRight or First Advantage. Be sure you know the number of times you have been arrested and whether each charge(s) and conviction(s) was a misdemeanor or felony so you can provide correct information to potential employers.

2. Be Prepared

If you find incorrect information, correct the information with the provider of the report and inform potential employers of the situation. Find out whether any of the charges on your criminal history qualify for restriction (expungement) and complete the process. Be prepared for your job search by getting copies of any relevant court records showing that charges were dismissed or restricted (expunged) in case an employer should ask. If you wait to get these items until after the employer asks, you may miss the opportunity.

3. Answer Questions Truthfully

Always answers questions about your criminal history truthfully, but do not provide more information than is requested. If an application only asks about convictions, do not list arrests that did not result in conviction. If the application only asks about felony convictions, do not provide information about misdemeanor offenses.

4. Take Responsibility

When talking about your criminal history, take responsibility for past actions and emphasize how you have moved forward in a positive way. Share positive experiences with potential employers. Potential employers will not be impressed by hearing negative feelings you have about your case.

(Sample letters for potential employers are included with these instructions)