Can my conviction be expunged in Georgia?

Has this happened to you? You’re walking out of a job interview and the boss puts a hand on your shoulder and says, “We’d love to have you on board. Expect a call in the next few days.” A week goes by and no one calls. Eventually you get ahold of his secretary, who tells you they hired someone else after they saw your background check.

A record of conviction follows you for your entire life. You’re punished anew every time you’re denied a job you deserve—and without income, how can you meet your basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter? When employers won’t give you a chance because of your record of conviction, the only solution is to restrict or overturn the conviction so they won’t see it in the first place.

In Georgia, the law governing correction, supplementation, and restriction of criminal records (commonly called “expungement”) is O.C.G.A. Section 35-3-37. This law was recently revised as part of HB 1176, signed into law on May 2, 2012 and effective July 1, 2013. Here’s how this revised law can help you.

If any of the following happened to your case, you are eligible to have your criminal records restricted:

  • Your case was dismissed or nolle pros’d
  • Your case has been on a dead docket for at least 12 months
  • You successfully completed a drug court or mental health treatment program and your case was dismissed, and you were not subsequently arrested for the next 5 years
  • You took your case to trial and were found not guilty
  • You plead guilty under the Conditional Discharge Statute (O.C.G.A. Section 16-13-2), you successfully completed your sentence, and you were discharged without conviction
  • You were convicted or plead guilty to a misdemeanor (but some misdemeanors are excluded), at the time you were convicted you were under 21, you successfully completed your sentence, and you were not subsequently arrested for 5 years
  • You were charged with at least one felony offense but you were only convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor (meaning, not a lesser-included offense)
  • Your conviction is reversed or vacated and the prosecution does not retry the case for 2 years

Notice that if you plead guilty outside of the Conditional Discharge Statute, or you were found guilty after a trial, your conviction cannot be expunged. Unlike other states, there is no relief even if you have not been arrested for decades.

Then, your only options are to apply for a pardon or appeal your case, but a pardon does not remove the case from your record (you will be issued a certificate and your record will show that you were pardoned). If an expungement is not available for you, consider hiring an attorney to review your case for appealable issues.

Locke Law Firm is available for free consultations. Give us a call at 678-666-4104 if you’d like to discuss your options for clearing your criminal record.