New expungement law helping clear up criminal records - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

New expungement law helping clear up criminal records

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

For some, their record could be holding them back. Now, they can have a fresh start. A new expungement law is allowing certain criminal charges to be erased. 

Brett Smith's Auburn firm is assisting clients hoping for an expungement. He says for those who were never convicted or later had the charge dismissed, they can clear up their record and move on. 

"For the first time in the history of Alabama, individuals have the ability to clear up their past and help protect their future," Smith said. "It doesn't have to continue to follow them throughout their life and that could affect a job application, housing and other decisions in their lives."

The law applies to those charged with a non violent felony, non violent misdemeanor, traffic violation or city ordinance violation and the charge had to be dismissed, no billed by a grand jury or the person had to be found not guilty. 

Randall Houston is the District Attorney for Autauga, Chilton and Elmore Counties. He says the law has a good purpose. He just doesn't want to see the legislation misused. 

"There are many people that this will apply to that it should apply to because if they did nothing wrong, then there shouldn't be a record there and it should be removed. Now for those folks that commit a lot of crimes, if you have a wrap sheet that's 5 or 6 pages long and you want to get something expunged, I'm probably going to object even if you qualify," Houston told WSFA. "We think it's important that law enforcement know about everything including every arrest that occurred in those individuals."

Houston says 20 years ago, members of law enforcement were the only ones who had access to someone's criminal background but now, with the advancement of electronic data, employers and agencies can access more information about you. 

"I think there's a need for it today for those folks who qualify and for those folks who should never have been arrested to begin with. It causes a lot of issues for them unnecessarily and they may be denied a job based on that and never know it," he added. 

To start the process, you have to file a petition with the circuit court where the incident occurred and there is a $300 fee per incident plus court fees. 

The required petition entitled "Petition for Expungement of Records" is available online at the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts website. Required with the petition is: a sworn statement that you meet the expungement requirements; a case action summary or certified copy of arrest and disposition (including agency involved and any incarceration); and, a certified copy of the arrest record from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center.

The District Attorney and, if applicable, the victim, have 45 days to oppose the petition. 

If your charges are expunged, then you're no longer required to disclose those records and the expunged charges are deemed never to have occurred. If there are any inquiries made about you, the courts and other agencies must reply that no record exists.

Arrest records, mug shots, index references for public records searches and other documents or files pertaining to the arrest or charge are among the records that are expunged. 

The expungement law does not pertain to violent felony charges or cases that resulted in convictions. 

The bill can be read in its entirety here.

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