If the state charges you with a criminal offense, you may have the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge. This offers the benefits of a lighter sentence and a less serious mark on your criminal record. You may still be worried about having the more severe offense visible to employers, landlords and other members of the public.
You might have the choice to have your record restricted. Record restriction, formerly called expungement, gives you more control over your criminal record. However, there are still certain caveats.
What to know about record restriction
Finding employment, housing and post-secondary education can prove next to impossible if you have a criminal record. The process of record restriction allows people with criminal histories a chance at a fresh start. When the court grants a record restriction, only law enforcement agencies can see the subject’s full criminal past. Typical public and private background searches will not pick up on restricted offenses.
How does a plea bargain affect restriction?
Georgia’s expungement laws are very limited, though. In our state, you cannot have a charge on your record restricted if you pled guilty to a lesser charge. Even if the original charge brought against you would otherwise qualify for expungement, pleading guilty makes both crimes ineligible for restriction.
Naturally, this can feel incredibly frustrating: a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario. To avoid one severe charge, you plead guilty to a lesser one; but through this bargain, the crimes will remain on your record forever. You are not the first person to experience this and you will not be the last. Georgia has some of the strictest expungement laws in the United States. You must weigh your options carefully and decide which one is best for your future.