Expungement & Record Sealing
Expungement and record sealing refer to the process of “erasing” or restricting access to criminal records. If you have a criminal history in Georgia, Atlanta criminal defense attorney David Schnipper can help you seal or destroy these records, clearing the way for more educational and employment opportunities.
What Seals and Expungement Mean for You
The process of “sealing” private records restricts the public’s ability to access your alleged crime. It prevents certain charges from proliferating through Internet and social media. This protects against “screening” by potential employers and public agencies. But law enforcement and other security personnel may still access the records through a criminal background check.
The prosecution may approve a request to “expunge” or destroy a criminal record. This essentially erases your criminal record, treating outdated arrests and convictions as if they did never existed. Expungements are available for arrests that were never referred to the state prosecutor and for cases that were dismissed before an indictment or accusation could be filed.
Procedure and Eligibility for Relief
Alleged offenders must submit a request, along with the relevant processing fee, to seal or expunge criminal records in Georgia. The prosecution has discretion to grant or deny the application. If approved, the criminal record may be destroyed or protected from disclosure within a few weeks. Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible:
- Dismissed criminal charges
- Prior to grand jury indictment
- No pending or future prosecution
- No record of indictment in court file
Dismissal of criminal charges may occur when the case was never referred to the state prosecutor or when the prosecution agrees to “drop” certain charges pursuant to a plea bargain or agreement. The prosecution also dismisses charges that are not supported by the evidence.
Grand jury indictment refers to the formal filing of an accusation after a judge or grand jury determines that the alleged crime was “more probable than not” based on the “reasonable suspicion” of law enforcement or witness testimony.
No pending or future action means that the prosecution is not currently pursuing, or planning to take further action in, a criminal case. This may be shown by the consistent or continuous failure to prosecute, whether due to “low” priority or legal restrictions at the time of the case.
No record of a filed indictment occurs when the charges are not properly prosecuted and do not appear on either the court’s docket or records. In addition, the offender must have no other criminal convictions within the last five years.
Factors Affecting Eligibility for Relief
The following factors may lead to ineligibility for sealing or expunging a criminal record:
- Pleas of “no contest” or “first offense”
- Criminal conviction following a jury trial
- Prosecution of similar activity in another court
- Failure to prosecute for fiscal reasons during jail sentence
- Completion of pretrial diversion program unrelated to charge
Any factor that involves misconduct to prevent the introduction of criminal evidence, such as perjury or witness tampering, makes expungement impossible. Similarly, the offender is ineligible if the prosecution either “would have” proceeded or plans to take future action in the case.
Successfully Requesting Relief and Challenging Denials
Record sealing and expungement open up new opportunities for jobs, education, and public benefits. If you were found ineligible for this relief, Atlanta criminal defense lawyer David Schnipper can help you challenge the denial. He has extensive experience sealing and expunging criminal records for individuals across Georgia. Attorney Schipper understands the criminal law system in Georgia and can help clear criminal charges and restrict access to private records. Call (404) 983-6051 for a free consultation or contact us online.