Recently, Alabama became one of the last remaining states to adopt procedures for those people who have been arrested, but not convicted, of certain criminal offenses to clear their record of arrest.
The new Alabama law allows for the expungement of non-violent felonies, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses in both county and city courts. Violent felonies such as assault, robbery, burglary, manslaughter and murder are not able to be expunged.
For all offenses, including misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, a person can file for expungement immediately after a) the case is dismissed with prejudice, b) the case is no billed by a grand jury, or c) the person is found not guilty of the charge.
For misdemeanors and minor offenses, if the case is dismissed without prejudice, then the person charged must wait at least 2 years from the date of dismissal and must not have been convicted of any other offense in the previous 2 years. For non-violent felonies dismissed without prejudice, the wait period is 5 years with no convictions in the previous 5 years.
For people charged with non-violent felonies and have been accepted into a court diversion program, such as mental health court, the charges may be expunged after one year from the date of completion of that program and may be ordered as a condition of that program by the court.
A person can file a petition in the circuit court of the county where the person was charged, which must include the following:
The applicant will also need to have paid all court costs, fees, and restitution associated with the case if so ordered and will have to pay a $300 administrative fee to file the petition for expungement.
The district attorney’s office and/or any victims in the case can object to the expungement and ask the court to set a hearing to determine whether the applicant’s petition should be granted or denied. If there are no objections, the court can rule on the petition without a hearing.
The records of the charge or charges to be expunged will be sent to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center and kept in a protected file, but may be used for criminal investigative purposes in the future under certain circumstances. All other records in the custody of any other body will be destroyed.
After expungement the law treats the incident as if it never occurred and the person whose record has been cleared is not under a duty to disclose any information about the incident on any application for employment or credit. However, the person is under a duty to disclose the fact of the record to government regulatory or licensing agencies, any utility or financial or banking institution and those bodies may petition the court to review the expunged records.
It is important to note that expungement will not affect any person’s restriction to own, sell, trade, or otherwise possess firearms. That process is separate and unrelated to expungement.
Talk with an attorney. Compiling and preparing the necessary documents, and being prepared to deal with objections from the district attorney’s office are tasks that only an attorney should handle.
The expungement process could very well have a significantly positive impact on a person’s ability to get a job, get loan, and generally protect their integrity. Having an experienced attorney as an advocate in this process will give a person the best chance at getting their record cleared so that they may enjoy these benefits.
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