If you have been following our blog, you know that misdemeanors are generally viewed as a lesser offense due to the punishment typically meted out by the court: a fine payment, community service, court supervision and reparation for damages. In some cases, however, having a misdemeanor on your criminal record may restrict your future housing, career and education options. For this reason, your best interests will be served if you are able to remove documentation of having been convicted of a misdemeanor.
If you meet the conditions set by the state, you will find that there are several options available for expunging criminal records:
1. Pretrial diversion
In order to lessen the long-term impact of misdemeanors on criminal records, the court provides the option of a pretrial diversion. In this situation, the defendant does not plead guilty to the charge and does not follow traditional path toward prosecution. This court-mandated program encourages the defendant’s rehabilitation by requiring participation in counseling and the court’s monitoring of the defendant. If the individual manifests good behavior over the course of the probate, he is rewarded by the court with a dismissal of charges.
2. Conditional discharge
This program typically applies to those charged with misdemeanor drug possession. While defendants following this route to expungement must plead guilty to the charges, the judge withholds determination of the case until the program is successfully completed. Defendants are usually required to participate in educational programs, community service, drug or alcohol evaluation, therapy and fine payment. In receiving a conditional discharge and completing in the appropriate DUI classes, the defendant will be able to retain driving privileges, which can be suspended upon being charged with drug possession. This type of record rehabilitation may be used only once.
3. Felony first-offender programs
As the name suggests, a first-offender program allows the defendant to declare that she has never been convicted of a crime. While the defendant pleads guilty, the court delays proceedings without recording judgment of the case. When the defendant successfully completes the program, documentation of the crime will not show as a conviction on the criminal record. Of course, should the defendant break the conditions of the program, she can be re-sentenced.
The qualifications for each of these programs vary according to the county in Georgia. While it is useful to know that there are options to limit the impact a misdemeanor charge has on your record, it is helpful to get legal advice to determine conditions and eligibility.