I’m facing criminal charges. What’s the best way to make sure they get restricted?
If you are facing criminal charges, you can take action to make sure they get expunged. Pending criminal charges can be expunged in a number of ways, but you normally must wait until the case is over.
Understandably, many people are concerned about spending time in jail, losing their job, and providing for their family after they are arrested. They are not often thinking about how their charges will affect them after their case is over.
Criminal charges can continue to affect you for years after your criminal case is over. That’s why it’s important to consider which criminal case results will make sure your charges will not show up in future background checks or will be eligible for restriction in the near future.
The best outcomes for future restrictions are:
- Dismissal or Nolle prosequi of charges. If your charges are dismissed or nolle prossed (or handled in another sort of non-conviction like no billed by the grand jury), they should automatically be restricted by the court clerk once your case is over. This is true for any arrests after July of 2013. For arrests before July 2013, you must request restriction from the police department and the prosecutor in writing. You can then request to seal the court record and your charges should no longer show up on any background checks.
- Diversion sentence that results in dismissal. Many courts use diversion programs (also known as pre-trial intervention) to resolve a case. Common diversion programs are a shoplifting intervention course, drug court, mental health court, or another court plan that the defendant has to complete within a certain time in order to get their case dismissed or nolle prossed. It’s very important that the charges are dismissed at the end of diversion, and not just reduced in order to have the charges automatically restricted at the end of the case. Again, this is for arrests after July 2013.
- Dead docket of case. Dead docketing a case puts the case on hold, often for an indefinite time, usually to see if the defendant gets in trouble again. Georgia’s record restriction law considered dead dockets to be non-convictions after 12 months, so they can be restricted and sealed after that time.
- First Offender and sealing at time of plea. First Offender is Georgia’s second chance act and a powerful tool for felony charges. (First Offender can be used for misdemeanors as well, but many people “save” their First Offender option for a felony charge.) A First Offender plea is a great option because it results in a “pending” case until the sentence ends and then becomes a non-conviction (with limited exceptions). Georgia law also allows you to seal First Offender Act cases at the time of the plea, so the charges can be restricted from public access at that time and no longer available to landlords and most employers. Once the case is successfully completed, the case is discharged and the sealing will remain in place, effectively keeping the entire case from affecting someone’s job and housing prospects.
- Reduced from felony to misdemeanor. If the above options are not available, the next best outcome is to make sure there’s no felony conviction. Misdemeanors can be restricted and sealed from someone’s record four years after their last conviction. Before asking for restriction and sealing, felonies must be pardoned; the pardon waiting period is five years from the end of the sentence. So, the waiting period for misdemeanors is shorter than for felonies. Of course, misdemeanors are also considered less serious than felonies for employers and others.
- Felony with short sentence. As outlined above, certain felonies can be restricted and sealed once they are pardoned, but there is a five year waiting period before you can request a pardon. So, the shorter the sentence, the earlier someone will be eligible to request a pardon.
Are you eligible for a pardon or restriction? Call us to get started on your case today!
- About Pardons in Georgia
- Can I get my record expunged in Georgia?
- What is sealing a court record in Georgia?
DISCLAIMER: THE ABOVE STATEMENTS ARE GENERAL INFORMATION AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF YOUR CASE MAY BE DIFFERENT. DEVETTER LAW MAKES NO GUARANTEE OF ANY OUTCOME. THE ABOVE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS CREATED BY PROVIDING THIS INFORMATION.