Have you ever filled out a job application? If you have, you’ve probably been asked, “Have you ever been arrested?” It’s a pretty loaded question.
What if you were arrested, but prosecutors dropped the charges? What should you say then?
If you say no, you’re lying. If you say yes, the person reading the application will judge you for something you didn’t even do. “Well, they were arrested. They must’ve done something wrong,” they’ll think. If they want, they can search the records and see the arrest for themselves.
Alabama’s lawmakers are fixing this problem. On July 7th, a new expungement law will go into effect that allows Alabamians who have been arrested, but not convicted of a crime, to wipe away their arrest records. The expungement law also covers those that entered and completed deferment programs like drug or DUI court. If your records are expunged, you may not have to disclose your arrest records on job, credit, or other applications.
Do you qualify to have your arrest records expunged? Let’s find out:
If you were charged with a misdemeanor, traffic violation, or municipal ordinance violation, your arrest records can be expunged. They can be expunged immediately if your charge was dismissed with prejudice, no-billed by a grand jury, or if you were found not guilty. If the charge was dismissed without prejudice and prosecutors haven’t refiled it, you have to wait two years to expunge your records.
If you were charged with a felony, expungement depends on whether or not you were charged with a “violent” felony. Section 13A-11-70 of the Alabama Code lists the felonies that are considered violent. They are:
- Capital Murder;
- Manslaughter (excluding Vehicular Manslaughter);
- Sexual Abuse;
- Domestic Violence I & II;
- And Distribution or Manufacture of a Controlled Substance
Any other felony charges are non-violent and can be expunged immediately if they were no-billed by a grand jury, dismissed with prejudice, or if you were found not guilty. If you were offered a diversion program like mental health treatment, drug rehab, or veterans’ court, you can expunge your records one year after you complete the program. Finally, if your charge was dismissed without prejudice and prosecutors haven’t refiled it, you can get it expunged after five years if you haven’t committed any other crimes during that time.
So you qualify under the new law. How do you start expunging your arrest record? First, send a petition to the circuit court where the charge came from. Your petition will only be considered if you’ve already paid your other court fees and fines. You need to send a copy of your petition to the DA and the law enforcement agency that arrested you. The petition requires:
- A sworn statement that you meet the law’s requirements;
- A case action summary or certified copy of the arrest and case disposition;
- A certified copy of the arrest record from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center;
- A description of the charges to be considered for removal and a description of the agencies involved in the arrest and any incarceration;
- And $300 plus any local filing costs or court costs that the court charges.
After you submit your petition, the DA’s office and the alleged victims have 45 days to file their own petition to keep the arrest records public. If nobody opposes, the judge can expunge the records right away, but otherwise, the judge will set a hearing at least 14 days from the date of the opposing petition.
Having a lawyer can make this process much easier.
If you have old arrest records hanging over your head, the new law could be a great opportunity for relief. Don’t miss it. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today to see if you qualify for expungement. If you do qualify, that attorney may be your best ally as you draft your petition. An attorney can negotiate with the DA, explain your circumstances to the judge, and represent you at a hearing if victims object to your petition. Should you choose to call an attorney, the defenders at Parkman White, LLP, are prepared to help you expunge your old arrest records. Contact us today for a consultation at 205-502-2000.