You completed your sentence and paid for your mistakes, but your criminal record may still be preventing you from building a better life for yourself. Fortunately, you can consult with a Ringgold expungement lawyer to determine if you are eligible to have restrictions placed on your record. Working with a defense attorney may be the best way to protect your interests.
The state does not allow people to remove interactions with the criminal justice system from their file. Instead, expungement refers to limiting access to criminal histories based on who wants to see the information and what crimes are at issue. Arrests, convictions, and other non-conviction events in the state never disappear, nor are they erased from someone’s file.
If the court grants a restriction, the now-protected information no longer appears on background searches, making it easier for individuals to obtain loans, apply to college, secure employment, and much more. However, police, prosecutors, and judicial staff, including judges, still have access to the entire record, and they could use the information contained in that file at a later date. For example, if a person is facing new criminal charges, the court may consider their full record during sentencing.
Although Georgia does not allow wiping the slate clean, there are many advantages to restricting records. Those seeking such restrictions may find the process less daunting if they work with a Ringgold attorney familiar with expungement law.
Until January 2021, the courts could seal records only of non-conviction activities, such as dismissals, acquittals, completions of diversionary or treatment programs, et cetera. However, when Senate Bill 288 became law and amended the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 35-3-37(j)(4), it eliminated the bar against sealing convictions in certain circumstances, giving hope to those who fall within the new guidelines.
Individuals may request the sealing of misdemeanor convictions so long as the offense is not on the ineligible list in O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(4)(C). Misdemeanors identified in this subsection include, but are not limited to, child molestation, family violence simple assault, sexual solicitation, and serious traffic violations. Additionally, the number of records a person may restrict is capped at two misdemeanors.
Overall, the law continues to allow the sharing of information about felony convictions. However, the court may limit access to a narrow category of felonies identified in O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37(j)(7). To qualify, the person must have received a pardon for the felony and have no other convictions since the amnesty granting. The original felony also must not have been a serious violent offense.
Lawyers who regularly handle expungement cases in Ringgold may assist applicants in ensuring that this new law is applied correctly to their unique circumstances.
To restrict access to a record, a person must submit an application to the court and give notice to the prosecutor of the request. To meet the eligibility factors, these individuals must have completed their sentence at least four years prior and not had any trouble with the law since that time, except for minor traffic violations. The court may request a hearing, but in-person arguments are not mandated. Because of this, it is vital that the application persuasively present the person’s case, as they may not get another opportunity to convince the judge. An attorney accustomed to filing expungement papers such as these may help Ringgold applicants effectively state their need for restricting access.
If you are trying to get your life back on track but need help addressing your past, reach out to our dedicated Ringgold expungement lawyers. Our attorneys understand the challenges a criminal record can pose and are ready to help you navigate the complex process.