ALABAMA EXPUNGEMENT LAW PASSES IN 2014 LEGISLATURE

Alabama ExpungementAlabama Expungement Bill Signed Into Law

The Alabama Legislature passed an Alabama Expungement Bill this year and the bill was signed in to law on April 7, 2014.  The law will become effective on July 7, 2014.  We have been reporting in the past on unsuccessful attempts to get legislation passed allowing expungement of criminal records in Alabama for dismissed cases and cases where a defendant is found not guilty.  It is with great joy that we can now report that Alabama has a new expungement law.

WHAT TYPES OF CASES ARE INCLUDED IN THE NEW ALABAMA EXPUNGEMENT LAW

On Misdemeanor Cases expungement would be possible:

  • Where the charge is dismissed with prejudice
  • When the charge has been no billed by a grand jury
  • When the person has been found not guilty of the charge
  • When the charge was dismissed without prejudice, has not been refiled, and the person has not been convicted of any other felony or misdemeanor crime, any violation, or any traffic violation, excluding minor traffic violations, during the previous two years

On Felony Cases expungement would be possible for felonies not considered as “Violent Felonies” under the Alabama Sentencing Guidelines:

  • Where the charge is dismissed with prejudice
  • When the charge has been no billed by a grand jury
  • When the person has been found not guilty of the charge
  • When the charge was dismissed without prejudice, has not been refiled, and the person has not been convicted of any other felony or misdemeanor crime, any violation, or any traffic violation, excluding minor traffic violations, during the previous two years

CRIMES EXCLUDED AS “VIOLENT CRIMES” IN NEW EXPUNGEMENT LAW

PROCEDURE UNDER NEW ALABAMA EXPUNGEMENT LAW

The new expungement law requires a sworn expungement petition to be filed with the Court which handled the case.  The expungement petition must be served on the District Attorney or prosecutor.  The D.A. or prosecutor must make “reasonable efforts” to give notice to any victim in the case.  The prosecutor and/or the victim then has 45 days to file a written objection to the petition.  If either the prosecutor or the victim objects, the court must set the petition for a hearing.

FACTORS CONSIDERED BY COURT UNDER ALABAM EXPUNGEMENT law

Under the new Alabama expungement law, the court should consider the following eight factors in deciding whether to grant the petition:

  • Nature and seriousness of the offense committed
  • Circumstances under which the offense occurred
  • Date of the offense
  • Age of the person when the offense was committed
  • Whether the offense was an isolated or repeated incident
  • Social conditions which may have contributed to the offense
  • An available probation or parole record, report, or recommendation
  • Evidence of rehabilitation, including good conduct in prison or jail, in the community, counseling or psychiatric treatment received, acquisition of additional academic or vocational schooling, successful business or employment history, and the recommendation of his or her supervisors or other persons in the community.

Under the new expungement law it appears that the hearing is mandatory, and the court must be reasonably satisfied that the person meets the requirements for expungement.  The law also states that any appellate review of a court’s decision is to be for “abuse of discretion.”  This is an extremely deferential review standard.  The court also has the power to determine ho many cases should be expunged after the first expunged case.  If there is no objection then the court can rule on the petition without a hearing.

COSTS OF EXPUNGEMENT

Expungement comes with a steep price tag; a $300.00 filing fee.  However, there is a provision and procedure for claiming indigence which allows the person to pay the filing fee in payments.  The filing fee under the new Alabama expungement law is $300.00.

EFFECT OF EXPUNGEMENT UNDER NEW LAW

Under the new Alabama expungement law records of the case are sealed and sent to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center.  The records affected include the arrest reports, booking and arrest photographs, and computer database records of the State.  The State of Alabama retains a copy of the case “indefinitely.”  However, access to the record requires a court order.