What Can I Do About My Criminal Record?
About Expungement, Records Restriction, Release from the Sex Offender Registry, Early Termination of Probation, Pardons, Restoration of Gun Rights, Habeas Corpus, and other methods of Post-Conviction Relief in Georgia.
As part of the trend for criminal justice reform, the Georgia Legislature has expanded the options available to people with arrests and convictions on their records.
In July 2013, the right to seek Expungement (actually called “Records Restriction” in Georgia) was extended to more types of cases and dispositions and the process streamlined.
In 2015, the Georgia Legislature allowed people who had not been informed of their right to plead guilty under the First Offender Act to retroactively petition the Court to be treated as a First Offender.
And, in January 2021, major changes took effect which greatly expanded the rights of people with actual convictions to seek to get their lives back. There is now relief for people with certain felony and misdemeanor convictions.
So, if you have an arrest or even a conviction on your record, there may now be something you can do about it. Likewise, if you are on the probation or the sex-offender registry, you may have options to change your status.
But how can you know which type of relief you might be eligible for?
We can help you with that.
Here is how it works:
Step 1. We help you determine which type or types of relief you are eligible for. In most cases this includes reviewing you Georgia Criminal History (“G.C.I.C.”) and an in-depth consultation with you about your cases and what you would like to achieve. We charge a small fee for this step.
Step 2. Preparing and filing the appropriate documents. Which documents we prepare and where we file them depends on which type of relief you seek. In example, to get off or probation or the sex offender registry, we file in the Court in which your case was originally heard. But, for a pardon we file with Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. The fee for this step is negotiated based upon the type of relief that you seek.
Step 3. Prepare for and Represent you at a Hearing. Not all types of relief will result in there being a hearing. But, if there is a going to be a hearing, we will prepare you for and represent you at that hearing.
What Are Some Of The Options That Are Available?
Expungement and Records Restriction
If you were arrested and the charges were later dismissed, or if you were found “not guilty” at trial, you may be eligible to have the record of your arrest restricted.
2013: Expanded Eligibility for Records Restriction.
On July 1, 2013 a new law took effect in Georgia that increased the number of cases that are eligible for records restriction and made it much easier to achieve. Basically, this law said that the record of your arrest could be restricted if:
- The case was dismissed, not prosecuted, not presented to the grand jury (NPGJ), or twice no-billed by the grand jury; or
- You were acquitted (found not guilty) of all charges.
2021: Felony Restriction & Sealing.
And then, more dramatically, on January 1, 2021 a new law (S.B. 288) took affect that is game changer for many people. Under this new law many people with felony convictions can now apply for a pardon, records restriction, and the sealing of their court record.
Felony restriction and sealing starts with Pardon process:
- First we file an Application for a Pardon with the Georgia Department of Pardons & Paroles.
- You must be “off paper” and have lived a “law abiding life” for 5 years before applying.
- No pending charges, fines, or restitution.
- No excluded offenses (but different process and wait for sex offender pardon).
- Usually takes six to nine months to get an answer.
If the Pardon is Granted:
- We file a combined petition to both restrict the arrest record and seal the Court record.
- Must be filed in the Court in which you were convicted.
- The Court will hold a hearing (which you must request)
- The Court is required to weigh the harm to the individual vs. the public interest in the information.
2021: Misdemeanor Restriction & Sealing
On January 1, 2021 S.B. 288 also made it possible for people with many types of misdemeanor convictions to have their arrest records restricted. Generally speaking, to have your misdemeanor conviction restricted, the following conditions apply:
- You must wait until four years from the date of your conviction.
- Must have no pending charges.
- No convictions during those four years.
- The offense must be one that is designated as eligible.
- You must file the petition in the court in which you were convicted.
Sealing of Court Records
In accordance with Georgia law (O.C.G.A. Sec. OCGA § 35-3-37) you may be eligible to have the Court’s record of the charges against you sealed. This is a valuable step to take as most such Court records are now readily available to anyone online.
- Generally speaking, any charge that has been restricted may possibly be sealed, but you must have the charge restricted from your arrest record before you apply to have the Court Record sealed.
- A petition must be filed with the Court and a hearing may be required.
- The sealing is discretionary with the judge that hears the matter, and to order the sealing the Court must find that the harm to the individual outweighs the public’s interest in the records.
Retro-active First Offender
If you plead guilty to a felony or a misdemeanor but were not sentenced under the First Offender Act, a recent change in the law allows you to apply retroactively to have your case treated under the First Offender Act. If this request is granted, the charges against you will be dismissed, and in most cases, that would make you eligible to apply for Records Restriction and the Sealing of your Court Records.
Not all offenses are eligible for Retro-active First Offender Treatment. But for those who are potentially eligible, if granted by the Court after a hearing, it can mean no longer being considered a convicted felon.
Restoration of Gun Rights
Georgia law allows many people who lost their gun rights due to a felony conviction to apply to have their gun rights restored. This is a process that we can help with. It starts by conducting a review of your criminal history to determine whether you are potentially eligible. If you are eligible, then we can prepare and submit the application.
Release from the Sex Offender Registry
If you are on the Sex Offender Registry and have completed your probation, you may be eligible to apply for release from the Registry.
Georgia Law (O.C.G.A. § 42-1-19 sets forth the criteria which will make someone eligible to apply for Release. We can help you determine if you meet these criteria. If you do, then we can daft and file a Petition for Release from The Requirements of The Sex Offender Registry. If you were sentenced in Georgia, we will file in the Superior Court in which you were convicted. However, if you were convicted in another state but are living and registering in Georgia, we will file in the Superior Court of the Georgia county in which you now live.
The Court will set a date for a hearing, and we will prepare you for and represent you at that hearing. Even if you are clearly eligible, it is still discretionary with a judge, so proper preparation for and handling of the hearing is very important.
Early Termination of Probation
If you have successfully completed the terms and conditions of your probation, or if there is a compelling reason that you cannot do so (perhaps a health crisis), you can petition the Court to release you from probation early. To grant this or not is in the Court’s discretion, which means its up to the Judge. So, if you are going to ask for this relief you need to be fully prepared to put on the best possible case to show why the Judge should do this for you.
Many people are eligible to seek a Pardon and they never even know that. The fact is that a very high percentage of people who are off probation and have stayed out of trouble are eligible to apply for a Pardon. This is an option we are happy to discuss with you.
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
A writ of Habeas Corpus is the means by which a person under sentence may challenge that sentence. It originated centuries ago in England as a means by which any inmate could challenge the legality of his detention. As such it has been referred to as “The Great Writ.”
Under Georgia law time limits have been placed upon most cases for the filing of a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. Generally, a person has four years from the date of conviction to challenge a felony conviction and one year to challenge a misdemeanor conviction.
Call For A Free Consultation