New Decision From Court of Criminal Appeals Clarifies Appeals of Expungement Petitions
On April 29, 2016, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued an ruling regarding the appeal of an expungement petition. The ruling holds that the only avenue for appellate review where an expungement petition is denied is by Writ of Certiorari. In Bell v. State of Alabama, Criminal Appeals # CR 15-0618, Bell filed a petition for expungement of charges under the statute prohibiting a school employee from engaging in a sex act with a student. The victim recanted their allegations and the charges were dismissed. The circuit court in Shelby County denied the petition and Bell appealed the denial to the Alabama Supreme Court. The Alabama Supreme court initially transferred the appeal to the Court of Civil Appeals, then rescinded the transfer, and sent the appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the expungement statute only provides for one avenue of appellate review; a writ of certiorari to the appropriate appellate court. Alabama Code § 15-27-5(c) provides that the “ruling of the court shall be subject to certiorari review and shall not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.” The appeal was dismissed because it was not a writ of certiorari and did not comply with the specific requirements of a writ of certiorari. The review process under a writ of certiorari is a very technical matter and the rules must be meticulously complied with in order for the appellate courts to consider the case.
This case was released in conjunction with another appeal on a denial of an expungement petition, Levins v. State, Appeal # CR 15-0612.