FAQ’s – Record Restriction (Expungement)

Expungements

10. What is record restriction or expungement?

Georgia’s old law used the term “expungement, which implied that criminal records information was deleted or destroyed. In reality, criminal records were not deleted or destroyed; the term “expungement” simply meant that the information was unavailable to be viewed for all purposes except law enforcement and criminal justice.

Georgia’s new law, effective July 1, 2013, does not use the word “expungement.” Instead, the process is now referred to as “record restriction.” Only the name of the process has changed. Record restriction means that eligible records on your official criminal history report are restricted from public view and are only accessible to law enforcement for criminal justice purposes.

11. Does restriction happen automatically?

Under the new law, if your arrest is not referred for prosecution, it will be restricted from your GCIC criminal history record automatically after a period of two (2) years for misdemeanors, four (4) years for most felonies, and seven (7) years for serious violent and sex-related felonies. These automatic provisions of the law apply to arrests before and after July 1, 2013. If a record is automatically restricted, however, and later a disposition is entered that does not qualify for restriction, the law requires that the record be “unrestricted” by GCIC.

12. If I wasn’t convicted, why is the charge still on my criminal history?

If you were arrested before July 1, 2013, the record remains on your official criminal history unless the charge(s) qualifies for record restriction and you complete the restriction application process.

If you are arrested after July 1, 2013 and the charge(s) qualifies for restriction, the arrest(s) will be restricted by GCIC when the disposition is entered into the GCIC database by the prosecutor or clerk of court. The records of the arresting agency will be restricted within thirty (30) days of the entry of the disposition into GCIC’s database.

Regardless of the date of your arrest, if your case was placed on the dead docket you will need to wait twelve (12) months from the date the case was placed on the dead docket to file an action in superior court for restriction.

13. Can an arrest on my criminal history be restricted?

Georgia law only allows restriction (expungement) in the following three (3) situations:

1. NON-CONVICTIONS

Generally, cases that are closed without conviction qualify for restriction. This includes charges that are closed by the arresting agency, dismissed, nolle prosequi/nolle prossed, placed on the “dead docket,” and those not presented to the grand jury or twice nobilled by the grand jury. Verdicts of not guilty and vacated/reversed convictions are also eligible for restriction.

Non-Conviction Exceptions:

Restriction is not available if after indictment:

A.  A charge was dismissed because:

  • You pled guilty to another charge in the case;
  • You were involved in a pattern of criminal activity prosecuted in another jurisdiction
  • The prosecution could not use important evidence against you (evidence was suppressed)
  • You had some form of immunity.

B. You were acquitted, but within ten (10) days of the verdict, the prosecution convinces the court not to restrict, or it is later determined there was jury tampering or judicial misconduct.

2. YOUTHFUL OFFENDERS

Certain misdemeanor convictions that occurred before you turned twenty-one (21) years old qualify for restriction. To qualify, you must have successfully completed your sentence, and since the successful completion of your sentence, you cannot have been arrested for any offense, other than minor traffic offenses for five (5) years.

Youthful Offender Exceptions:

Restriction is not available for the following convictions:

  • Serious Traffic Offenses including:
    • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
    • Reckless Driving
    • Aggressive Driving
    • Fleeing/Attempting to Elude
    • Serious Injury by Vehicle
    • Vehicular Homicide
  • Theft (does not include Shoplifting)
  • Child Molestation
  • Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes
  • Pimping
  • Keeping a Place of Prostitution
  • Pandering by Compulsion
  • Masturbation for Hire
  • Giving Massages in a Place used for Lewd Sexual Acts
  • Sexual Battery
  • Sexual Assault by Persons with Supervisory or Disciplinary Authority
  • Sexual Exploitation of Children
  • Electronically Furnishing Obscene Material to Minors
  • Obscene Telephone Contact with a Minor
  • Computer Pornography

3. Charged With a Felony, but Convicted of an Unrelated Misdemeanor

You may be able to have a felony charge restricted if it was closed without conviction, and you were only convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor offense in that case. The court will determine whether restriction is appropriate considering the harm the record is causing you (i.e., difficulty getting a job, housing, license, etc.). You are not eligible for restriction if you were convicted of a lesser included offense of the felony charge.

14. Can I have my whole criminal history restricted?

Georgia law does not allow for the restriction of an entire criminal history. You must apply separately for record restriction of each eligible arrest.

15. If I was convicted a long time ago, can I get my record restricted?

Under current Georgia law, felony convictions are never eligible for restriction. It does not matter how much time has passed since your conviction. If you have been convicted of a felony, you may be eligible for a pardon from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

16. I don’t remember what happened in my case, how can I find out if it qualifies for restriction?

The outcome of the case, also referred to as the “final disposition,” is filed in the clerk’s office of the court in which your case was handled. The final disposition reflects how the case was resolved and should be on your criminal history. If the final disposition is missing from your GCIC criminal history record, go to the clerk’s office of the court in which your case was handled and request a copy. You will have to pay a few dollars for the document. Review the disposition, and determine if the charge is eligible for restriction.

17. If I never had to go to court or the final disposition cannot be found, can I have the record restricted?

If you never had to appear in court after you were released from jail, the charge should be restricted automatically after a certain period of time by GCIC and the arresting agency.

A record can also be restricted after the statutorily required periods if the final disposition no longer exists or cannot be located.

18. Can my record be restricted if I pled guilty under the Conditional Discharge Act?

Under the Conditional Discharge Act (O.C.G.A § 16-13-2) certain first time drug offenders can plead guilty, but if they successfully complete their sentence, they are discharged without conviction. Beginning on July 1, 2013, those individuals who have been discharged under the Conditional Discharge Act qualify for record restriction. If you were arrested and sentenced under the Conditional Discharge Act before July 1, 2013, you must complete an application for restriction. If you are arrested and sentenced after July 1, 2013, your charges are restricted upon successful completion of your sentence as soon as the appropriate disposition is entered by the clerk of court or prosecutor.

19. Can I have a record restricted if I completed a drug court or mental health court program?

If you are arrested after July 1, 2013, and successfully complete a drug court or mental health court treatment program, the charges handled in that court will be restricted five (5) years after you complete the program. To qualify you must have no arrests within that five (5) year period, other than minor traffic offenses. You or your attorney should make sure the clerk of court or prosecutor enters the restriction into the GCIC database after the five (5) years have elapsed.

If you successfully completed a drug court or mental health court program before July 1, 2013, you need to apply for restriction with the arresting agency. To qualify you must have no arrests, other than minor traffic offenses, within the last five (5) years.

20. Can I get a record restricted if I received “time-served” and was released?

“Time-served” is a sentence. If you received a sentence of “time-served,” you were convicted of an offense. Convictions are not eligible for restriction unless you meet the criteria for “Youthful Offender” restriction. For more information about “Youthful Offender” Restriction see Question 13: “Can an arrest on my criminal history be restricted?”.

21. Can I get a record restricted if I did an Alford Plea?

An Alford Plea is a conviction even though you do not acknowledge guilt or fault. Convictions are not eligible for restriction unless you meet the criteria for “Youthful Offender” restriction. For more information about “Youthful Offender” Restriction see Question 13: “Can an arrest on my criminal history be restricted?”.

22. Can I get a record restricted if I pled nolo contendere (no contest)?

A plea of nolo contendere (no contest) is a conviction even though you do not acknowledge guilt or fault. Convictions are not eligible for restriction unless you meet the criteria for “Youthful Offender” restriction. For more information about “Youthful Offender” Restriction see Question 13: “Can an arrest on my criminal history be restricted?”.

23. Can I have a record restricted if the case was dismissed after I completed a pretrial intervention (PTI) or pretrial diversion program (PTD)?

Charges dismissed after you successfully complete a pretrial intervention/diversion (PTI/PTD) program qualify for restriction.

If the court placed your case on the dead docket at the time you were ordered to complete a PTI/PTD program you will need to file an action in superior court for restriction.

24. Can I get a record restricted if the case was placed on the dead docket?

Placing a case on the “dead docket” means the prosecution suspends the case indefinitely. The case can be reinstated any time by the court. The case, therefore, is still pending while on the dead docket and some employers may not hire you for this reason. If your case was placed on the dead docket and the state has not moved forward with prosecution after twelve (12) months, you can ask the court to restrict the record.

25. Can I get a record restriction if some of the charges in the case qualify for restriction?

All of the charges in the case must qualify for restriction under one of the three situations described in Question 13: “Can an arrest on my record be restricted?”.

26. If I have been denied restriction in the past, can I reapply?

Yes, your application will be reconsidered under the criteria in the new law. If your application was denied in the past and the charge(s) now qualify under the new law, you should reapply.

27. Do I need an attorney to apply for restriction?

No, you can get a record restricted on your own, without an attorney.

28. How do I get my record restricted?

The process for restriction depends on when you were arrested and how the case was resolved. Some arrests are restricted automatically after a certain period of time if the arrest has not been referred for prosecution.

If you were arrested before July 1, 2013, and your charge(s) was not indicted or accused, the case against you was dismissed (and none of the exceptions apply), or you were acquitted at trial, you will need to apply for restriction through the arresting agency and pay any required fees. The new law requires that the application process be completed within 150 days.

If you are arrested after July 1, 2013, and your charge(s) is not indicted or accused, the case against you is dismissed (and none of the exceptions apply), or you are acquitted at trial, the charge(s) will be restricted when the clerk of court or prosecutor enters the appropriate disposition into the GCIC database. You do not need to apply for restriction or pay a fee.

The new law requires you file an action in superior court to restrict certain types of records. A court order is necessary to restrict the following types of cases: 1) charges placed on the dead docket, 2) felony charge(s) when you are convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor, 3) convictions that are vacated/reversed and 4) youthful offender convictions.

29. What if I was arrested before the effective date of the new law but my case was resolved after July 1, 2013?

The new restriction law states that if you were arrested before July 1, 2013 you are to apply for restriction at the arresting agency. GCIC’s database, however, will be programmed on July 1, 2013 to allow restriction upon the entry of an eligible outcome/final disposition. That means it is possible that if you were arrested before July 1, 2013 but your case is resolved after July 1, 2013, the record will be restricted by GCIC upon the entry      of an eligible outcome/final disposition. When your case is resolved you should ask the prosecutor how the disposition will be entered on your GCIC criminal history record and whether you will need to apply for restriction. If the prosecutor advises that you apply for the restriction of the record, you should contact the arresting agency and complete the application process for restriction.

If you are unsure of how the disposition was entered into the GCIC database, you should get a copy of your GCIC criminal history record at least thirty (30) days after the case is resolved to see if it has been restricted from your criminal history. If the arrest and/or disposition still appear after thirty (30) days, you should contact the arresting agency and complete the application process for restriction.

30. Why does an arrest/case show up on background checks after it has been restricted?

The old restriction process in Georgia covered only the criminal history information maintained by the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) and the arresting law enforcement agency. Private background companies, therefore, still had access to information about your case in their records because the information remained public at the courthouse and the jail/detention center. Beginning on July 1, 2013, Georgia’s new law allows the restriction of these records. Once the record is no longer publicly available, federal law requires that private background companies remove the information about the case from the databases if the information cannot be verified.

31. If my case was restricted, do I have to report it to an employer?

If a criminal record is restricted but you tell an employer that you were never arrested, you run the risk of not being hired or being fired for lying on your application. If asked about arrests, even if they have been restricted, it may be in your best interest to inform potential employers, licensing agencies or housing providers about the case.  Make sure they are aware you were not convicted and the restriction process is complete. Keep a copy of your official criminal history and a copy of any paperwork you have regarding the restriction. Make a copy available for a  potential employer or current employer who is interested in confirming the information.

How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Case that was Dismissed or Otherwise Closed without Conviction and Seal the Court Records

When a charge is dismissed or otherwise closed without conviction, you may qualify for restriction (expungement). See O.C.G.A. 35-3-37(h).

ELIGIBILITY:

  1. Case was dismissed, not prosecuted, not presented to the grand jury (NPGJ), or twice no-billed by the grand jury; or
  2. You were acquitted (found not guilty) of all charges.

NOTE: You do not qualify for restriction if your charge was indicted but later closed without conviction because:

  • You pled guilty to another charge in the case;
  • You were involved in a pattern of criminal activity prosecuted in another jurisdiction;
  • The prosecution could not use important evidence against you (evidence was suppressed);
  • You were acquitted, but there was evidence of jury tampering or judicial misconduct.
  • You had some form of immunity

PROCESS FOR GCIC/ARRESTING AGENCY RECORDS:

Eligible arrests occurring after July 1, 2013 will be restricted (expunged) from your criminal history by the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) as soon as the disposition is entered into the GCIC database, and the arresting agency within thirty (30) days of the entry.

Eligible arrests occurring before July 1, 2013 must be restricted by completing a multi-step application process.The process can take up to 150 days and is as follows:

  1. Contact the arresting law enforcement agency for the requirements to restrict a record.
  2. Submit the application and any other required documentation. There is usually a processing fee of $25.00, though the agency can charge up to $50.00. A copy of the Application is included with these instructions. Applications can also be found at:                 https://gbi.georgia.gov/sites/gbi.georgia.gov/files/related_files/site_page/Request%20to%20Restrict%20Arrest%20Record%20Instructions%20and%20Request%20Form.pdf
  3. Within thirty days (30) of receiving the application, the arresting agency must forward the application to the prosecuting attorney’s office to verify that charges qualify for restriction.
  4. Within ninety (90) days of receipt from the arresting agency, the prosecuting attorney must decide whether the record will be restricted (expunged) – based on the criteria in the law – and return the application to the arresting agency. If approved, the arresting agency must restrict the information within thirty (30) days and return the application to you at the address you provided on the application.
  5. If the application is approved, you must send it to GCIC with a $25.00 money order to restrict the charge from your official Georgia criminal history record. If the application is denied, you have thirty (30) days to appeal by civil action in superior court.

PROCESS FOR COURT RECORDS

To get the file of your restricted charges sealed you must file an action and show the court that the harm suffered by the clerk’s record remaining public (i.e., denial of jobs, licensing, housing, etc.) outweighs the interest in the record being publicly available. In other words, you need the file sealed more than the public needs access to the file. See O.C.G.A. 35-3-37(m).

The process to seal the records of the court is as follows:

  1. Get a certified copy of the final disposition in your case from the clerk of court where your case was handled.
  2. Prepare the motion. A sample motion is included in these instructions.
  3. Sign and date the motion.
  4. Indicate the case number assigned to the criminal case.
  5. Attach the final disposition and any other required documentation. (NOTE: Do not attach a copy of your criminal history.)
  6. Attach any additional documentation showing that the presence of the record on your GCIC criminal history record is causing you harm (such as letters of employment or housing denials based on your background).
  7. Make three copies of your original documents.
  8. File the Motion and Draft Order in the criminal division of the clerk of court that handled the case. There should not be a filing fee. (NOTE: If the case was a felony, you should file the motion in the superior court. If the case was a misdemeanor, the motion should be filed in the state court.)
  9. Deliver or send a copy of your Motion and Draft Order to the office of the prosecuting attorney in the original case and the clerk of court.
  10. If you requested a hearing, the judge will hear testimony about whether record restriction is appropriate in your case.
  11. If the judge finds that restriction is appropriate, he or she will sign the order. It must be filed with the clerk of the court that handled the case.

PROCESS FOR JAIL RECORDS

You can restrict records maintained by jails and detention centers if the records have already been restricted. See “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records Kept by the Jail” on page 110.

How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Vacated or Reversed Conviction and Seal the Court Records

If your conviction was vacated by the trial court or reversed by an appellate court, the record may be eligible for restriction (expungement). See O.C.G.A. 35-3-37(j)(2).

ELIGIBILITY:

  1. You were convicted of an offense not punishable by death;
  2. The conviction was vacated by the trial court or reversed by final decision of an appellate court;
  3. The prosecution did not retry the case within a two (2) year period after the order vacating/reversing the conviction became final; and
  4. The record is causing you harm. For instance, you are unable to secure employment and/or housing because of the record that can be demonstrated through your testimony or denial letters from employers or housing providers.

PROCESS:

  1. File an action (motion/petition) in the superior court in the county where the record is located for an order to restrict the record.
    1. If the vacated/reversed conviction was handled in superior court see “How to Restrict (Expunge) Charge(s) Handled in Superior Court (Usually Felonies)” on page 101.
    2. If the vacated/reversed conviction was not handled in superior court, see “How to Restrict (Expunge) Charge(s) NOT Handled in Superior Court (Usually Misdemeanors)” on page 103.
  2. Deliver a copy of the action to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
  3. If requested, a hearing will be held within ninety (90) days of filing.
  4. The court will hear evidence to determine if restriction is appropriate. The court will consider the reason the conviction was reversed or vacated, why the prosecution did not retry the case within the two (2) year period, and whether the public has an interest in the record being available.
  5. If the court orders the records restricted, you can submit a written request for restriction to the jail/detention center and the law requires the records be restricted within thirty (30) days of your request. See “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records Kept by the Jail” on page 110.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  1. Certified copy of the final disposition from the clerk of court.
  2. Order Vacating/Reversing Conviction.
  3. Motion/Petition to Restrict. (Sample documents are included with these instructions)

How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Case Placed on the Dead Docket and Seal the Court Records

Placing a case on the “dead docket” means the prosecution suspends the case indefinitely, but it can be reinstated at any time by the court. The case is still pending while on the dead docket and some employers may not hire you for this reason. If your case was placed on the dead docket, you can ask the court to restrict (expunge) the record after it has been on the dead docket for a period of twelve (12) months. See O.C.G.A. 35-337(j)(3).

ELIGIBILITY:

  1. The case was placed on the dead docket;
  2. The case has been on the dead docket for twelve (12) months; and
  3. You do not have an active warrant.

PROCESS:

  1. File an action (motion/petition) in the superior court in the county where the record is located for an order to restrict the record.
    1. If the dead docketed charge(s) was handled in superior court, see “How to Restrict (Expunge) Charge(s) Handled in Superior Court (Usually Felonies)” on page 101.
    2. If the dead docketed charge(s) was not handled in superior court, see “How to Restrict (Expunge)  Charge(s) NOT Handled in Superior Court (Usually Misdemeanors)” on page 103.
  2. Deliver a copy of the action to the prosecutor’s office.
  3. If a hearing is requested, it must occur within ninety (90) days of the filing.
  4. The court will consider the reason the case was placed on the dead docket and grant restriction if appropriate.
  5. If the court orders the records restricted, you can submit a written request for restriction to the jail/detention center and the law requires the records be restricted within thirty (30) days of your request. See “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records Kept by the Jail” on page 110.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  1. Certified copy of the final disposition from the clerk of court.
  2. Motion/Petition to Restrict. (Sample documents are included with these instructions)

How to Restrict (Expunge) Youthful Offender Convictions and Seal the Court Records

If you were convicted of certain misdemeanor charges when you were under the age of twenty-one (21), you can petition to have the record(s) restricted (expunged). See O.C.G.A. §35-3-37(j)(4).

ELIGIBILITY:

1. You were convicted of a misdemeanor or a series of misdemeanors arising from a single incident.

The following misdemeanor offenses are not eligible for restriction:

  • Serious Traffic Offenses including:
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Reckless Driving
  • Aggressive Driving
  • Theft (does not include Shoplifting)
  • Child Molestation
  • Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes
  • Pimping
  • Keeping a Place of Prostitution
  • Pandering by Compulsion
  • Masturbation for Hire
  • Giving Massages in a Place used for Lewd Sexual Acts
  • Sexual Battery
  • Sexual Assault by Persons with Supervisory or Disciplinary Authority
  • Sexual Exploitation of Children
  • Electronically Furnishing Obscene Material to Minors
  • Obscene Telephone Contact with a Minor
  • Computer Pornography 

2. You were under the age of twenty-one (21) when convicted;

3. You successfully completed the sentence; and

4. You have not been arrested for the last five (5) years (excluding non-serious traffic offenses).

PROCESS:

  1. File a petition in the superior court in the county where the case occurred for an order to restrict the records. See “How to Restrict (Expunge) Charges NOT handled in Superior Court” on page 103.
  2. Deliver a copy of the petition to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
  3. If requested, hearing must occur within ninety (90) days of filing the petition.
  4. The court will grant restriction if appropriate, considering your conduct since conviction and the public’s interest in the record being available.
  5. If the court orders the records restricted, you can submit a written request for restriction to the jail/detention center and the law requires the records be restricted within thirty (30) days of your request. See “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records Kept by the Jail” on page 110.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  1. Certified copy of the final disposition from the clerk of court.
  2. Proof of successful completion of the sentence.
  3. Petition to restrict. (Sample petition is included with these instructions)
  4. Evidence that the charge causes you harm (such as preventing employment).

How to Restrict (Expunge) a Felony Charge When Only Convicted of an Unrelated Misdemeanor and Seal the Court Records

You can have a felony charge restricted on your criminal history if it was closed without conviction and you were convicted only of an unrelated misdemeanor offense in the case. See O.C.G.A. §35-3-37(j)(1).

ELIGIBILITY:

  1. You were arrested within the last four (4) years;
  2. You were charged with a felony offense(s) but not convicted of the felony;
  3. You were convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor(s) in the case; and
  4. The record of the felony charge(s) is causing you harm. For instance, you are unable to secure employment and/or housing because of the record, which can be demonstrated through your testimony or denial letters from employers or housing providers.

PROCESS:

  1. File an action (motion/petition) in the superior court in the county where the record is located for an order to restrict the felony charge.
    1. If the felony charges were indicted (i.e., the charge(s) was assigned a court case number), see “How to Restrict (Expunge) Charge(s) Handled in Superior Court (Usually Felonies)” on page 101.
    2. If the felony charges were never indicted (i.e., the charge(s) dismissed before the assignment of a court case number) or you are not sure whether the charges were indicted, see “How to Restrict (Expunge) Charge(s) NOT Handled in Superior Court (Usually Misdemeanors)” on page 103.
  2. Deliver a copy of the action to the prosecuting attorney’s office
  3. If requested, a hearing must be held within ninety (90) days of filing the request.
  4. The court will grant restriction if it determines that the misdemeanor conviction is not related to the felony (not a lesser included offense) and the harm you suffer clearly outweighs the public interest in the record.
  5. If the court orders the record restricted, you can submit a written request for restriction to the jail/detention center and the law requires the record be restricted within thirty (30) days of your request. See “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records Kept by the Jail” on Page 110.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  1. Certified copy of the final disposition from the clerk of court.
  2. Motion/Petition to Restrict. (Sample documents are included in these instructions)
  3. Evidence that the charge is causing you harm (such as keeping you from finding employment).

How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of Charges Handled in Superior Court (Usually Felonies)

Under the new record restriction law effective July 1, 2013, most eligible charges will be restricted from your record as soon as the prosecutor or the clerk of court enters the eligible disposition onto your GCIC criminal history record. In certain circumstances, however, the law requires that you get a court order to restrict records.

Under O.C.G.A. 35-3-37, only a Superior Court judge may order restriction. If your charges were originally handled in Superior Court you can file a motion to restrict your charges under the original case number, with the judge that originally heard your case. A motion is a written request to the court to take an action. In this case, you are requesting that the court order restriction of charge(s) for a particular arrest. Although not required, you can hire an attorney to file a motion to restrict your felony record. If you would like to proceed on your own or cannot afford an attorney, you can file a pro se motion. Pro se means “for yourself.”

CIRCUMSTANCES THAT REQUIRE A COURT ORDER:

  1. Felony charges placed on the dead docket for at least twelve (12) months, O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(3) (See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Case Placed on the Dead Docket and Seal Court Records” on page 65);
  2. Felony convictions that were vacated by the trial court or reversed by an appellate court, O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(2) (See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Vacated or Reversed Conviction and Seal the Court Records” on page 51); and
  3. Indicted felony charges when there is a conviction only for an unrelated misdemeanor, O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(1) (See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Felony Charge When Only Convicted of an Unrelated Misdemeanor and Seal the Court Records” on page 87.)

PROCESS:

  1. Get a copy of your official GCIC criminal history record from a local law enforcement agency so you will know the arresting agency, arrest date, and what specific information is included in your record.
  2. Get a certified copy of the final disposition in your case from the clerk of court where your case was handled.
  3. Prepare the motion. A sample motion is included with these instructions.
  4. Sign and date the motion.
  5. Indicate the case number of the criminal case.
  6. Include the Offender Tracking Number (OTN) for the particular arrest you are seeking to have restricted. The OTN is important because this is the reference number GCIC will use to identify the information to restrict. (NOTE: The OTN is located on your GCIC criminal history record just before the arrest information.) 
  7. Attach the final disposition and any other required documentation. (NOTE: Do not attach a copy of your criminal history.)
  8. Attach any additional documentation showing the presence of the record on your GCIC is causing you harm (such as letters of employment or housing denials based on your background).
  9. Make three (3) copies of your original documents.
  10. File the Motion, Certificate of Service, and Draft Order (the suggested language for the court to use when granting the motion) in the criminal division of the superior court in your county. There should not be a filing fee.
  11. Deliver or send a copy of your Motion and Draft Order to the office of the prosecuting attorney in the original case. (NOTE: Motions filed for felony charges when convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor require service to the arresting agency. (See O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(1))
  12. If you requested a hearing, the judge will hear testimony about whether record restriction is appropriate in your case within ninety (90) days.
  13. If the judge finds restriction is appropriate, he or she will sign an order. It must be filed with the clerk of the superior court.
  14. You should also take a certified copy of the Order to Restrict to the jail or detention center. See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records Kept by the Jail” on page 110.
  15. Obtain a new copy of your GCIC about three (3) weeks after the order is filed to be sure the charges no longer show up.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  1. Motion.
  2. Draft Order.
  3. Certified copy of the disposition in your case.

How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of Charges NOT Handled in Superior Court (Usually Misdemeanors)

Under the new record restriction law, effective July 1, 2013, many eligible charges will be restricted from your record as soon as the prosecutor or the clerk of court enters the eligible disposition onto your GCIC criminal history record. In certain circumstances, however, the law requires that you file an action in superior court to restrict records.

Under O.C.G.A. 35-3-37 only a Superior Court judge may order restriction. If your charges were originally handled in Superior Court you can simply file a motion under the original case number for the judge to consider your  request, but if the charges were originally handled in a court other than Superior Court, you must file a civil petition in the Superior Court in the county in which your case was handled. Filing a civil petition opens a case in Superior Court so a judge can consider your petition to restrict the record.

A petition is a written request to the court to take an action. Although not required, you can hire an attorney to file a petition to restrict your misdemeanor record. If you would like to proceed on your own or cannot afford an attorney, you can file a pro se petition. Pro se means “for yourself.”

CIRCUMSTANCES THAT REQUIRE COURT ORDER:

  1. Misdemeanor charges placed on the dead docket for at least twelve (12) months, O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(3) (See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Case Placed on the Dead Docket and Seal the Court Records” on page 65);
  2. Misdemeanor convictions that were vacated by the trial court or reversed by an appellate court, O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(2) (See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Vacated or Reversed Conviction and Seal the Court Records” on page 51); and
  3. Certain misdemeanor convictions if you were convicted before you turned twentyone (21) years old, “Youthful Offender Restriction,” O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(4) (See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of a Youthful Offender Conviction and Seal the Court Records” on page 78); and 4. Unindicted felony charge(s) if you were only convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor, O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(1). (See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records of Felony Charge and Seal Court Records” on page 87)

PROCESS:

  1. Get a copy of your official GCIC criminal history record from a local law enforcement agency so you will know the arresting agency, arrest date, and what specific information is showing up on your record.
  2. Get a certified copy of the final disposition in your case from the clerk of court where your case was handled.
  3. Prepare the petition.
  4. Sign and date the petition.
  5. Leave the case number and judge blank. This is a civil petition and is not part of the original criminal case.
  6. Include the Offender Tracking Number (OTN) for the particular arrest you are seeking to have restricted. The OTN is important because this is the reference number GCIC will use to identify the information to restrict. (NOTE: the OTN is located on your GCIC criminal history record just before the arrest information.
  7. Attach the final disposition and any other required documentation. (Note: Do not attach a copy of your criminal history)
  8. Attach any additional documentation showing that the presence of the record on your GCIC criminal history record is causing you harm (such as letters of employment or housing denials based on your background).
  9. Make three copies of your original documents.
  10. File the Petition and Draft Order (the suggested language for the court to use when granting the petition) in the civil division of the superior court in the county where the case was handled.
  11. There will be a filing fee, usually around $200.00. If you cannot afford the fee, file a Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Affidavit of Indigency with your petition for restriction. Sample documents are included with these instructions
  12. Deliver or send by certified mail or overnight delivery a copy of your Petition and Draft Order to the office of the prosecuting attorney in the original case.
  13. If you requested a hearing, the judge will hear testimony about whether record restriction is appropriate in your case within ninety (90) days.
  14. If the judge finds that restriction is appropriate, he or she will sign an order. It must be filed with the clerk of the superior court.
  15. Since your original case was not handled in superior court, take a certified copy of the filed order to the clerk of court for the court that resolved your case.
  16. You should also take a certified copy of the order to the jail or detention center. See, “How to Restrict (Expunge) Records Kept by the Jail” on page 110.
  17. Pull a new copy of your GCIC about three (3) weeks after the order is filed to be sure the charges are no longer showing up.
  18. If the judge denies your petition you may appeal the decision under O.C.G.A. §5-6-34.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  1. Petition.
  2. Draft Order.
  3. Certified copy of the disposition in your case.

How to Restrict (Expunge) Records Kept by the Jail

You can restrict records maintained by jails and detention centers if the records have already been restricted. See O.C.G.A. 35-3-37(k)(2).

ELIGIBILITY:

  1. Record has been restricted pursuant to the law. (See O.C.G.A. §35-3-37).

PROCESS:

  1. Submit a written request to restrict the records kept by the jail/detention center.
  2. The request must be granted within thirty (30) days.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION:

  1. Letter requesting restriction. A sample letter is included with these instructions but contact the jail/detention center because they may have their own form.