A new Alabama law, which went into effect July 2014, allows people to move on from a dark period in their past and take an important step to protect their future.
AL SB108 allows people who have with previous arrests for non-violent felonies, misdemeanors and traffic crimes to have their criminal record expunged, so long as the case ended in a dismissal with prejudice, a no-bill by a grand jury, a not guilty verdict or successful completion of a court-ordered diversion program. Even those whose cases were dismissed without prejudice can be eligible, so long as five years have passed and the person hasn't been arrested in the interim. People convicted of violent crimes, such as homicide, manslaughter, robbery or domestic violence, are not considered eligible for relief under the law.
While these are the basic criteria, the individual facts of each situation will matter. Petitions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Having an experienced Birmingham criminal expungement lawyer to help determine eligibility, prepare the request and provide the best evidence to bolster it will be important factors in receiving approval.
While some pundits have expressed concern that the price tag of the process (which includes a $300 administrative fee) will hinder some of the estimated tens of thousands who may be eligible, it's important to note that expunging one's record has a myriad of benefits – including financial – which can improve your life now and well into the future. (There is also an option for those who truly cannot afford the fee to submit an Affidavit of Financial Hardship, which will allow those fees to be paid in installments.)
One of the biggest gains individuals will see after expungement is with job prospects. Employers can and often do scour the criminal records of prospective employees. Although our criminal justice system holds the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” in high regard, employers are likely to see an arrest – even one that didn't result in conviction – as a major mark against a worker. This is particularly true of alleged crimes related to theft or fraud.
Additionally, those applying for a job are legally required to answer honestly when asked if they have ever been arrested for a crime, and will likely be asked to provide details of the incident. However, when a record is expunged, a worker is legally permitted to answer “No” to this question.
Having a criminal record expunged can also help pave the way for loan approvals, including those for vehicles, homes and education financing. Some agencies take criminal records into account as an indication that someone may be less likely to meet required financial obligations. When this is combined with the difficulty one faces in getting employment, it's two major strikes against you.
Another important reason to have a record expunged is that it will help your standing in domestic matters. Individuals seeking to gain child custody (or a greater degree of visitation), adopt a child (including stepchildren) or obtain guardianship for an elderly loved one may have a difficult time doing so with that arrest record hanging over their head.
For those wishing to proceed with a petition for expungement, the first step is to contact an experienced Alabama expungement attorney. Your attorney will first analyze your case to ensure you are eligible. If you are, your lawyer will prepare the petition, which will include a sworn statement of your eligibility and a declaration of whether you have previously applied for expungement. The submission will also include a certified record of the arrest disposition (or case summary) and a certified official criminal record from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center.
Once the petition is submitted, the district attorney's office or the alleged victim in the case will have 45 days in which to file a written objection. Here again, having an attorney to help clearly, concisely and completely counter arguments against the petition is critical.
The bottom line is that expungment of your criminal past is one of the best ways to help you close the book on a bad chapter and move forward with a clear conscience. We're here to help you achieve that goal.
Help with expunging a criminal record in Alabama can be found by calling Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.