Fulton is the biggest county in Georgia. It is the only county with population exceeding 1 million residents. The county suffers from relatively high crime rate, which is above the national average in all crime categories, mainly murder, rape and assault. For this reason, a background check is something that is done by private people quite a lot.
Tracking a person’s criminal history in Fulton County is not a complicated process thanks to plenty of databases anyone can use freely. Ranging from local databases (found at the sheriff’s website – especially the quite efficient open records request mechanism) to search tool provided by the state, people have practically all they need to make sure, for example, that their babysitter is not a former sex offender or their blind date has not a drug dealer.
The United States, Georgia in particular, has adopted an open record policy. Local and national FOIA Laws enable the public virtually unlimited access to governmental files, including files dealing with crime.
True, there are some states that are more reluctant to reveal criminal histories (e.g. California) than others, but compared to countries in the West, the situation in the United States is much better.
This raises the issue of a person’s right to privacy. Can it go hand in hand with the public’s right to know and the freedom of information? The answer is no. These two rights quite often contradict one another. Yet the prevailing approach is that the freedom of information denies the right to remain anonymous. When it comes to a possible criminal background, the issue at stake is public safety, children in particular.
Having said that, states still impose some limitations on what the public can see. For example, juveniles’ records remain concealed and are not released unless there is a court order that obligates the authorities to reveal information. In addition, people with a criminal record may ask for expungement and then their record remains concealed indefinitely (unless they commit additional offenses).
- Sealing criminal records in Georgia – state’s regulations
- Illinois Appellate Defender – Guidelines for expunging criminal records in Illinois.