A criminal arrest can affect a person’s chances of employment, renting or leasing housing and running for a public office, even if there was no conviction and even if charges were not filed.
In April 2014, the Alabama Legislature passed a law allowing the records of certain misdemeanor and felony charges to be expunged if there was no conviction. The law, which went into effect in July 2014, allows the expungement of certain traffic violations, municipal ordinances, violations and misdemeanors.
For the records to be expunged, the offense has to meet one of the following conditions:
• The charge was dismissed with prejudice
• The charge was no-billed by a grand jury
• The person was found not guilty of the offense
• The charge was dismissed without prejudice, more than two years have passed, the charges have not been re-filed and the defendant has not been convicted of anything else, excluding minor traffic violations.
Although felony charges are considered severe, some non-violent felony charges can be expunged in Alabama. The charge also must have a dismissal with prejudice, no-billed by a grand jury or a finding of not guilty. The charge also could be dropped one year after completion of a diversion program like drug treatment, mental health treatment or veterans’ court.
Violent felonies cannot be expunged in Alabama, even if they meet the conditions. Violent felonies listed in the Alabama code include capital murder, murder, manslaughter, assault, domestic violence, kidnapping, rape, sodomy, robbery, burglary, arson, stalking and sexual abuse.
The process of getting your criminal records sealed or destroyed in Alabama also requires payment of a $300 administrative fee. In addition, the expunging of a person’s criminal record requires a petition to an Alabama circuit court where the charge was filed.
Expungement, however, is not always simple. The law allows the local district attorney’s office and the victims of the offense 45 days to oppose the expungement. If an objection is filed, a hearing will be scheduled. A criminal defense attorney can represent the person seeking expungement.
If an Alabama court approves the request, all court, law enforcement and related records will be expunged within six months. This includes arrest records, booking records, mug shots, index references for public records searches and other documents or electronic files concerning the arrest or charge.
The records of the arrest and any subsequent hearing or other matter will no longer turn up in searches of public records. However, if may be difficult or impossible to eliminate all records of an arrest, as some may remain on the internet.