Many times prospective clients call me and tell me their prior offense is not on their record. Unfortunately, that is rarely true. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation regarding how the Georgia Criminal Information Computer (GCIC) works.
To begin with, when arrested for shoplifting, possession of marijuana, underage drinking, and other petty offenses, a person will likely qualify for diversion. Diversion is a non-judicial agreement between the State's Attorneys and the Defense to defer prosecution in exchange for a change in behavior. Once completed, the case is dismissed, and the accused qualifies for their record to be restricted.
However, in Georgia record restriction is not the same as expungement. Once restricted, an employer would not be able to see the arrest; however, the government will always be able to see you had been arrested. The reason is purely practical; it prevents a person from using diversion more than once.
Additionally, pleading nolo contendere is a conviction that will appear on a person's criminal history. It can be used to enhance punishment for a subsequent offense, and any employer will be able to see it.
Furthermore, if someone goes to trial and is acquitted of all charges, the State is required to restrict a person's criminal history. However, the rub is “all charges.” For example, most DUI defendants are also charged with minor traffic offenses that did occur. As a result, if a person is convicted of speeding and acquitted of DUI, they are not legally entitled to records restriction.
Finally, and to review, if you enter a plea to DUI, or are found guilty after trial, it is on your record for life. When a person is convicted of a second (or more) DUI in ten years there are enhanced penalties associated therein. That does not mean a DUI comes off a person's record after ten years, nor does it mean that offenses that occurred more than ten years ago are irrelevant to punishment.