By: Erin Dohnalek
A misdemeanor conviction can lead to many adverse consequences, including barriers to employment, education, and sometimes even housing. However, in the State of Georgia, there are potentially three avenues available to restrict and seal (expunge) misdemeanors off your criminal record to help avoid these collateral consequences that are associated with misdemeanor convictions. They are as follows:
- Retroactive First Offender (O.C.G.A. § 42-8-66)
- Restrict and Seal Two Misdemeanor Convictions (O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37)
- Vacate, Restrict, & Seal under the Survivors First Act (O.C.G.A. § 17-10-21, 35-3-37)
In this blog, we will focus on the 2021 change in the law here in Georgia that allows two misdemeanor convictions to be restricted and sealed under O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37.
Process of Record Restriction
In Georgia, there are certain charges that cannot be restricted, even under the new law that allows for two misdemeanor convictions to be sealed from a client’s criminal history. These include sex crimes against children, pimping and pandering, crimes against minors, sexual battery, peeping tom crimes, family violence battery (unless the accused is under the age of 21 years old), child molestation, public indecency, hindering persons from making an emergency telephone call, certain theft cases, driving under the influence, and certain serious traffic offenses.
In order to be eligible to restrict misdemeanor convictions under O.C.G.A. § 35-3-37, you must not have any criminal convictions in the four years prior to requesting record restriction. You also must not have any pending charges and must have completed all terms and conditions of your sentence. Furthermore, Georgia only allows expungement for two lifetime misdemeanor convictions.
The first step in restricting and sealing a misdemeanor conviction is to petition the court to expunge your conviction if you meet all the eligibility requirements. It is up to the Judge’s discretion whether the conviction will be sealed. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney will meet with the client, learn their background, and understand why it is important to have their criminal record expunged. They will use this information to persuade the Court to grant their petition. If you are interested in having a misdemeanor conviction expunged, please go to your local police department or sheriff’s office and request your criminal history (GCIC) under the “E” code. This will assist an attorney in giving you the best possible options for record restriction.
Here at the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our attorneys are well-versed in all possible avenues for record restriction in the State of Georgia. Therefore, if you or a loved one are interested in expunging a misdemeanor conviction from your criminal history, please call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.