New Alabama expungement law seals record if found not guilty

By Lindsay Seagraves/News Editor

Alabama residents who have been arrested of a crime but never found guilty can now get a clean slate thanks to a new expungement law, which went into effect on July 7. 

The law, titled ACT 2014 292, was finalized and passed on April 2 and says residents tried but found not guilty for certain nonviolent misdemeanor or felony criminal offenses can have their arrest record sealed from public view. 

Previously, persons –innocent or not – charged with a crime had an open-to-public record; causing possible issues any time a background check was required. For those with a criminal record, job and even mortgage applications can be denied.

Attorney Sam D. Bone of Dani V. Bone and Sam D. Bone, Attorneys at Law explained that once a charge has been expunged, it wipes it away completely. “When an employer asks if you have been arrested for a crime, you can say no I have not.”

Bone said Alabama is one of many other states in the region that have adopted the law.

Misdemeanor criminal cases that are eligible for expungement include those where the charge was dismissed, no-billed by a grand jury or found not guilty. 

Felony criminal cases eligible include those where the charge was dismissed, no-billed, found not guilty, dismissed five years ago without being refilled with no convictions existing during the five years, and after one year of completing a diversion program.

Bone shed light on the many rules of the law, explaining, “There are actually 46 different felonies which cannot be expunged, such as assault; burglary; domestic violence.” He explained the exceptions do not fall under the criteria for expungement because they are all violent offenses in the Alabama code. 

The expungement law applies to dated and recent cases, and requires that a petition must be filed with the circuit court where the charge was filed. 

Bone explained the filing fee is $300 plus any attorney fees and court costs.

Once the petition is filed, the district attorney’s office will review it and notify any victims involved in the case. The victims and DA’s office have 45 day to oppose the expungement, but if no one objects, the court can rule without a hearing.

After approval of expungement, all records from the case are ordered in custody of the court. Then, as the law says, “The proceedings regarding the charge shall be deemed never to have occurred.” 

“It will be very successful in that if you’re found not guilty of a crime, then it no longer stands on your record,” said Bone. “Which is fair and how it should be.”

 
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