According to local attorney Evan Watson, each year countless Georgia residents go about their daily lives totally unaware that a past criminal history is following them around like an invisible red flag, affecting their chances to find things like employment and housing.
“It's important because, quite frankly, these criminal records and backgrounds, they matter for employers and employment rates,” Watson said.
But from now until Sept. 1, Watson’s firm, the Forsyth County-based Zeliff Watson Attorneys at Law, will be providing a record restriction and expungement clinic to help Georgia residents to clear their record for some criminal cases in Forsyth County.
To participate, Watson said that people should apply for the program by filling out a 5-10 minute online form via their website, giving the specifics of their case, which will allow Watson and his colleagues to determine how they can help.
Only specific cases under Georgia law allow record expungement, Watson said, so he will be reviewing each application personally.
"Georgia is only what you'd call a non-conviction state,” he said. “We only allow expungement for certain non-convictions."
Watson said that with some outliers, the only cases that can be expunged are those that were dismissed, filed as ‘nol pros’ or dead docketed. Cases where a person has entered a guilty plea, been found guilty at trial or entered a plea of ‘Nolo contendre’ can’t be expunged.
"If it's a conviction of any kind ... anything that involves guilt on the record, you can't have it expunged," he said.
For anyone unsure if a previous case is still part of their public record, Watson said that the best way to find out is by going into the nearest station of any local law enforcement agency, like the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office or the City of Cumming Police Department, and asking for a verified Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) background.
"Anyone can go do that for themselves,” he said. "I would encourage people to do that if they really care and they have a question."
And if the GCIC does show a record of something, Watson said that his firm is always there to help.
"They've had something in their past and are trying to move on," he said. “And if they want to contact us, we're going to help them."
For more information and how to apply, visit www.zwdefense.com/criminal-defense/record-restriction-expungement-clinic.