Expungement

The state of Alabama now allows individuals who have been charged, but not convicted, with certain crimes to petition to have the records related to the arrest and prosecution expunged from the public record if specific criteria are met. Expunged proceedings are "deemed never to occurred."

Expungement is not for everyone. The eligibility of a person to have a criminal charge expunged is a fact-specific analysis. Obtaining the documents to support the expungement petition can be a tedious and time-consuming process.

What Data Can Be Expunged

Expungement applies to all data regarding the arrest or charge, whether the data is in documentary or electronic form, including arrest records; booking or arrest photographs; and references in the state of Alabama Judicial Information System or other governmental index references for public records searches. The expunged data will include the personal identifiers such as true name, any aliases, address, date of birth and Social Security number.

How Expungement Can Impact Employment

In today's extremely competitive job market, it may be worth the time and expense to remove from the public record any reference to a criminal arrest for which you have not been convicted. Alabama's expungement law provides that, except in certain situations, a person whose record has been expunged is not required to disclose the record on applications for employment, credit or other applications. However, expunged records must still be disclosed to "any governmental regulatory or licensing agency, any utility and its agents and affiliates, or any bank or other financial institution."

Expungement Of Misdemeanor Charges And Traffic Arrests

Expungement applies to all misdemeanor criminal offenses, including traffic violations or violations of municipal ordinances provided that the charge was (1) dismissed with prejudice; (2) no billed by a grand jury; (3) the person was found not guilty of the charge; or (4) the charge was dismissed without prejudice to refile, and more than two years has passed and the charge has not been refiled and the person has not been convicted of any felony, misdemeanor, or any no-minor traffic violation in the two years preceding the filing of the Petition for Expungement.

With Prejudice And Without Prejudice Distinguished

In the context of the expungement law, a dismissal with prejudice means the prosecuting authority is prevented from refiling the same charge on the existing facts. A dismissal without prejudice would allow the prosecuting authority to refile the charges within the applicable statute of limitations.

Expungement Of Nonviolent Felony Charges

Any nonviolent felony charge can also be expunged if (1) the charge was dismissed with prejudice; (2) the charge was no billed by a grand jury; (3) the person was found not guilty of the charge; (4) the charge was dismissed after a successful completion of a drug court or any other court-approved deferred prosecution program, and more than one year has passed since the dismissal; (5) the charge was dismissed without prejudice to refile, and more than five years have passed and the charge has not been refiled, and the person has not been convicted of any felony, misdemeanor or any non-minor traffic violation in the five years preceding the filing for the expungement; or (6) 90 days have passed since the charge was dismissed with prejudice, no billed by a grand jury or nolle prossed and the charge has not been refiled.

Expungement is a civil proceeding rather than a criminal proceeding. In order to file a Petition for Expungement, the person must have paid the court costs, fines, fees and any restitution ordered in the case which is sought to be expunged. A Petition for Expungement is filed in the Circuit Court of the county where the charge was filed. A three hundred dollar ($300) administrative fee is due at the time of filing. Additionally, certain documents must be gathered and provided to the Circuit Clerk at the time of filing the Petition for Expungement.

Because the Petition for Expungement is a civil filing, it becomes a public record unless you ask the Circuit Clerk to seal the filing of not only the Petition for Expungement but any orders in the case. Otherwise, you may have tried to seal the occurrence of a prior event and in the process only made its occurrence more public.

What To Do

The State of Alabama has published a number of forms to assist Alabama residents with the expungement process. However, if you prefer to have qualified legal assistance with this sometimes daunting process, please contact Clyde Riley at the Riley Law Firm in Birmingham, Alabama, online or by calling 205-212-5577.