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'You could have child molesters working at schools' | Fulton County fails to send tens of thousands of court cases to GA Crime Information Center

The criminal records of thousands of people aren’t up to date – affecting courts, affecting businesses and affecting those individuals.

ATLANTA — Fulton County has failed to send tens of thousands of court cases to the Georgia Crime Information Center, county officials tell 11Alive News. 

It means that the criminal records of thousands of people aren’t up to date – affecting courts, affecting businesses and affecting those individuals.  

Officials added that this lapse is not related to the shutdown of courts during the pandemic; it’s something they explained has happened for years.

When a criminal case is completed – if a defendant is found guilty, or if a case goes away for lack of evidence – Georgia counties are expected to send that information to GCIC, which is run by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.  

The GCIC then makes the information public for criminal background checks.

"No school wants a child molester or child abuser working around their schools," said Robert James, former district attorney for DeKalb County. "The way we know these things is to have their GCIC or their 'rap sheet' run when they apply for these jobs."

But Fulton County – with Georgia’s largest criminal caseload --  has failed to send much of that information to the GCIC.  

They think perhaps 100,000 arrest records from over a period of several years have not been transmitted. Convictions, acquittals, dismissals – never entered into the statewide database.

It's still unclear how many cases are involved or how long the lapse occurred.

Fulton County has lost ground to a backlog of criminal cases over the last decade or more. But county officials said the failure to update the state criminal database is a separate issue.

It not only affects background checks for employers, but it also affects people mistakenly ensnared in the criminal justice system. Their criminal cases remain on the state database unless updated information clearing them is entered by the county.

"If the clerks office does not send the records to GCIC, these criminal records stay on their rap sheet," James said.

He added that the lapse in records is costly. "The public is much less safe. You could have thieves that work at banks or child molesters that work at schools," James said.

A spokesman for Fulton’s Clerk of Superior Court says the county is currently sending updated data to the GCIC.  

It is unclear what's the reason for the years of backlog prior to now.