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In 2014, the Alabama Legislature passed a law allowing people to expunge their criminal records. This is good news, especially for people whose records have hindered their opportunities in employment and education. However, there are certain significant limitations on whether a record can be expunged.

what does it mean for my records to be expunged?

The idea is that the whole incident would be erased from your record. Or, to quote the act: “[t]he proceedings regarding the charge shall be deemed never to have occurred.”

The person whose record is expunged will not have to disclose any aspect of the record for purposes of employment, credit, or other applications. There are three exceptions where the existence of the record must be disclosed:

  1. Government regulatory or licensing agencies.
  2. Utilities and their agencies and affiliates.
  3. Banks and other financial institutions.

what types of charges qualify for expungement?

Whether your case is eligible for expungement depends on the answers to the following two questions. First, what is the nature of the charge? Second, what was the disposition of the case?

1. what is the nature of the charge?

Only certain charges are eligible for expungement. Specifically, the charge must be a misdemeanor, a traffic violation, a municipal ordinance violation, or a non-violent felony.

An easier way to look at it is this: violent felony charges are not eligible for expungement. If you have not been charged with a violent felony, whether your charges can be expunged depends on the disposition of your case.

2. what is the disposition of my case?

Obviously, a case cannot be expunged while it is still pending. It also cannot be expunged if it has ended in a conviction or guilty plea.

In pretty much every other circumstance, the charge will be eligible for expungement. For example:
A. Dismissals are perhaps the most common example. If your charge has been dismissed then it is eligible for expungement. Note, this is the case even if the dismissal was pursuant to an agreement based on the completion of a diversion program. If you graduated from a program like Second Chance, then your charge is eligible for expungement.
B. Acquittals: If you were found not guilty, then the case is eligible for expungement.
C. No-bill by a Grand Jury: this is like a dismissal except that instead of the prosecutor dropping the charges, it’s the Grand Jury.

how long does the expungement process take?

The expungement process requires a background check, filing of a petition, a time period for the District Attorney to respond, and the issuance of the judge’s order for expungement (assuming that the District Attorney has not objected to the expungement).

Further, once a person’s record has been expunged, third parties who have retained or published information about the person’s record are given a notice period to remove the information from the public’s access before they face liability.

From start to finish, this process can take up to several months (or in some rare circumstances, even longer). For that reason, if you need a charge expunged from your record, it’s best to get started as soon as possible. If you’d like to begin the process or learn more about it, then call The Browne House Law Group today.