At some point in your past were you arrested and charged with a non-violent crime in Alabama? Was the case resolved in your favor? Are you tired of having to answer questions about it every time you apply for a new job or fill out applications? If so, we have good news for you, in April of 2014 Alabama passed a new expungement law that will allow many people who were arrested or charged with a crime to finally be able to clear their criminal record and to answer “NO” in most cases when asked if they have previously been arrested or charged with a crime.
If you have ever been arrested or charged with a non-violent crime in Alabama but not convicted, then you may qualify to have your record “expunged” under Alabama’s 2014 expungement law. To expunge something is to clean, zap or erase it. That is essentially the goal behind the new law, to provide an opportunity for those who never should have been charged with a crime in the first place or who deserve a second chance to have certain records erased, zapped or expunged.
The cold hard reality is that a prior criminal charge, even one that was made without any basis, can follow and haunt you throughout your professional life. It raises a red flag whenever a potential employer sees a prior criminal charge on an applicant’s record, or when the applicant answers “yes” or when asked he or she has ever been arrested.
The new expungement law finally provides the possibility for you to legally answer “NO” in most circumstances when a potential employer asks you if you’ve ever been arrested or charged with a non-violent crime. But, expungement is not automatic. You have to take the first step. You have to file an expungement petition and possibly have a contested hearing in court. An expungement proceeding is a high stakes legal matter that must be taken seriously. It is definitely not a do-it-yourself project. Be sure the lawyer you hire knows what they are doing. One misstep or oversight could lead to a petition being denied. It is important to move quickly. What the legislature gives it can take away. The legislature could repeal the expungement law in the future.
The new law does not allow a person to get convictions expunged, but the new law does allow a person to seek the expungement of charges that were resolved in the person’s favor. In some situations a person can file for expungement immediately. The length of time that must go by from the end of the case before expungement, varies depending on the type of charge and how it was concluded.
If the court grants expungement, it will issue an order that related police, court and government agency records, with certain limited exceptions, be expunged. The case is deemed never to have occurred. If anyone, with limited exceptions, inquires about the case, the agency must tell the person inquiring that no record exists. If a record was added to a federal database, Alabama will request it be removed. Expunged records will not be transmitted to the FBI’s national criminal records repository and records sent there will be requested to be withdrawn. A person who has had his or her record expunged does not have to disclose the matter on an application for employment, credit or other types of application. However, the person still has a duty to disclose the matter to certain government agencies, utilities, banks and other financial institutions, and these groups can still gain access to the expunged records under certain circumstances.
The law does not set a limit on the number of charges a person can have expunged, but the person’s other criminal history will be consider when deciding whether or not to grant expungement.
The new law is a wonderful opportunity for many good people to have a second chance. Our law firm has been practicing criminal law in the State of Alabama for decades, and we are bringing all of our experience and resources to bear to help people clear their records. We would love to help you as well.