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Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia passed a new revision to the state’s expungement law on May 2, 2012. The law governing the expungement, restriction, correction, and supplementation of criminal records in the state of Georgia. The new revision, which goes into effect on July 1st, 2013, will make the process to modify these records faster and more efficient.

First, the revision expands eligibility for expungement in Georgia. Currently, the law is extremely narrow in in the types of cases that are eligible for restriction after an individual is formally charged. The revisions significantly expand the type of qualifying case to include acquittals, reversed convictions, and cases dismissed by the prosecution when the individual successfully completes a drug or mental health treatment diversionary program. For the first time in Georgia, certain records of conviction will be eligible for restriction. Additionally, many parts of the expungement process are now automatic and require no action by the individual.

Second, it effectively shifts the current burden of the expungement process from the subject of the criminal record to the agencies that will now be responsible for restricting criminal data eligible for expungement and restriction. Moreover, for the first time, people will be able to restrict access to information maintained by jails and courthouses. This is important because jails and courthouses are the primary points of access for private background checking companies, which are predominantly used by potential employers and other decision-makers.

The new revision also affects the use of the term “expungement” in Georgia. Currently, “expungement” is a term used in the law but not defined. Contrary to popular belief, “expunged” records are never deleted or destroyed; instead access to those records is restricted for criminal justice and law enforcement purposes. Abandoning the misleading term “expungement,” the revised law uses the more appropriate term, “restricted,” to reflect what actually occurs to eligible records.

The information reflected on an individual’s criminal history is most critical to their ability to access opportunity in Georgia. However, the current law on modifying criminal history information is time-consuming, costly, burdensome, and incomplete. Under the revised law, individuals previously unable to access opportunities due to misleading criminal histories will be assured that their criminal history information is consistent, accurate, and complete.

Written by mjolissaint

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