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Georgia Public Records Laws

Georgia’s Open Records Act (OPA) grants residents of the state the statutory right to access and inspect many records that have been created or owned by government agencies. Although not specifically stated in the law, the Georgia Attorney General has voiced the opinion that even individuals who are not Georgia citizens should be granted access to the information. Given this statement, even though it is not required by law, a request to access public records made by a non-Georgia citizen may still be granted.

Information regarding all state agencies, departments, commissions, authorities and bureaus are available through the Open Records Act, as well as documents in association with municipal governments and regional authorities. If a private entity has performed a service for a public agency, or if a nonprofit organization receives more than one third of their funding from the government, their records are also considered to be accessible through a request for public records.

Materials considered to be in the scope of public record are broadly defined to include books, tapes, maps, written documents, electronic information and photographs that have been sent or received in the standard course of a government body’s daily operations.

However, requests for access to information can be denied by a government body if one or more exemptions apply to the instance. There are many potential exemptions that can be leveraged by an institution in order to deny a request, including not allowing access to documents that have been deemed confidential by the federal government and withholding any information that could potentially be used to circumvent alarm systems.

In order to find further information regarding Georgia’s public records law, examine Georgia’s Open Records Act in its entirety.

Georgia Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is in charge of maintaining and releasing Georgia criminal history records. These records include criminal history; personal identification data such as name, social security number, sex, race, height and weight; as well as arrest data like the date of arrest and what crimes the individual was charged with. The final judicial disposition is also included in the criminal history record.

Also, felony conviction records for individuals other than the person making the request can be obtained without the consent of the person whose record is being accessed.

Official state background checks are also the responsibility of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and can be applied for through the Georgia Applicant Processing Service.

Georgia Jail and Inmate Records

Georgia jail and inmate record information can be found within a criminal records history file. These files can be accessed through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and also include additional information about the inmate whose file is being examined, such as height, weight, sex, race, birth date, social security number and charges.

More information regarding Georgia’s jail and inmate records can be found within Georgia’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.

Georgia Court Records

Georgia Court Records are available to the public and can be requested through the Judicial Council of Georgia. Requests for court records can also be made at the court where the trial took place. Some juvenile proceedings are not publicly available, but often cases involving the care of a juvenile, such as child support hearings, are available.

The Judicial Council of Georgia can be contacted for further clarification regarding requesting and accessing Georgia Court Records.

Georgia Vital Records

The Georgia Department of Public Health is responsible for maintaining and processing requests for Georgia Vital Records. These records include birth and death certificates, as well as marriage licenses and divorce confirmations. Georgia birth records from 1919 to present are available.

Georgia’s Vital Records can be requested through the Georgia Department of Public Health Vital Records Request Page.

Georgia offers a moderate amount of protection for job applicants when it comes to employment background checks. The overriding guideline that appears to be in use is if the screening component is relevant to the job, then it is probably legal to do. If you plan to hire workers in Georgia, the following information should prove to be useful:

If you are interested in understanding specific requirements for employment background checks in Georgia, read on.


Certain professions in Georgia are considered to be jobs that absolutely require the public’s confidence in the workers’ ability to be honest. In that type of position, it is common to see that State of Georgia licensing will not be forthcoming if they have a criminal record.

A good example of this is a real estate professional. Georgia will not license people who have a criminal record as they are considered to be people that will not inspire confidence when it comes to handling financial transactions. On the other hand, if the person is part of the First Offender program, they can have their offense set aside and become licensed as a realtor.

Other types of positions are considered to be more standard. For those hiring caregivers in the health care industry, for example, the standard guidelines apply: only screen for areas that directly impact their job. If a caregiver is not receiving checks from your clients, you do not likely need to run a credit check on them. If they will be managing your facility, you may run a credit check, a employment background check, a criminal history check, a driving record check, as well as a drug screening.

If you are hiring people that will be driving or transporting goods, it is common in Georgia to run a DMV check that will verify their commercial driving license and show any infractions that they might have. Employers will typically also run a criminal background check.

Most companies that work in technology and hire engineers and business staff tend to run criminal background screening, drug screening, and credit checks. The rationale for running a credit check will often be that that employee will have access to company information that is very valuable and therefore the company could be at risk if they do not understand that they are hiring people that may be in financial straits.

For some workers, because it is hard to imagine someone taking company information, a credit check may seem out of place yet Coca Cola in Atlanta had their secret formula stolen by an office worker some years ago and that person tried to sell the secret to Pepsi. Of course Pepsi reported them and they were arrested, helping to show why a credit check is justified when people are handling sensitive information.

In general, keeping track of the latest laws is something that some companies would prefer not to have to do when it comes to employee screening, they will often turn to companies that specialize in running employment background checks on their behalf. That can lower liability because the third party company will be a specialist in Georgia-specific checks.

General Requirements for Background Checks in Georgia:

Georgia does not specifically go beyond federal law in most cases when it comes to running background checks. One law that is very important to understand, however, is that if you do decide to do a specific type of background check and then use the information to disqualify the applicant, you need to ensure that you keep a record of that information and that you inform the applicant that your decision was based upon the specific information that you received.

The law is important because if you do learn something that you do not like and you use it to make a hiring decision and then tell the applicant that they were not accepted for some other reason, it could be a misdemeanor on your part. The law is known as: GA Code 35-3-34 (b).

Another Georgia-specific type of system dealing with background checks is based upon a law that requires employers to register with their online system in order to access an applicant’s criminal history. The system is known as the Georgia Applicant Processing System and can be used to run criminal history checks on applicants once an employer has registered. First Offender offenses will not appear on a background check, but employers can require that applicants self-disclose information for certain types of jobs.


For driving records, obtaining a history that goes back either 3 or 7 years for potential employees that will be driving is possible through the DMV.

What can be shown on a background check in Georgia?:

Georgia background checks show fairly basic information about the applicant’s history.

When doing a criminal background check, as per the state of Georgia the information that will be reported will be the applicant’s name, date of birth, social security number, sex, race, height and weight. Companies will also receive the name of the arresting agency, the date of the arrest, what the charges were, and what the outcome or disposition of each case was.

For driving records, the state of Georgia uses an ‘A’ to signify that the driver does not have any special requirements that go with the license. If there is not an ‘A’, there may be a circumstance like requires corrective lenses, so employers will not typically use that as a deciding factor. The same personal information that is included with a criminal record is also included on a driving record. In addition, driving infractions will be noted along with the date. It is worthwhile to remember that after 2 years, records of licenses that were suspended will be removed from the database.

Using credit reports in GA for screening:

If an employer hires in other states, they may want to develop an overall approach that fits every state regarding their use of credit reports. For Georgia, there is no current state law that covers credit reports, but there is a bill that is currently in front of the legislature that will mandate that credit reports may only be used for: managers, those who deal in managerial level company finance, and those employees that will have expense accounts.

Under current state law, there is nothing to preclude employers from running a credit report when hiring retail employees that will be handling cash on a regular basis. In practice, because a credit report can affect the applicant’s credit score, most companies are careful about the job types that they run a credit report for anyway.

  • Updated September 11, 2018
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