For the past ten years, certain criminal charges in Alabama have qualified for expungement. Simply put expungements erase the evidence of a criminal charge from a person’s record. In fact, once a charge is expunged, a person is generally allowed (by law) to deny that the incident ever happened.
It’s a big deal, and historically it has only applied when cases are dismissed.
Yesterday, Governor Ivey signed a bill that expands the statute in noteworthy ways. Whether you practice criminal defense or are trying to get an old case off your record, you’ll want to know about the new law. In this post, we will offer a brief rundown.
WHAT USED TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR EXPUNGEMENT:
Under the old law, the only cases eligible for expungement were ones that had ended in dismissal or acquittal. More often than not, these were cases where the defendant successfully completed a diversion program.
Another significant restriction in the old statute had to do with the difference between acquittals and dismissals. The only way that violent felonies could be expunged is if the client had been acquitted (found not guilty after a trial).
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE NEW EXPUNGEMENT STATUTE:
There are some smaller changes under the new statute, mostly for the better. For instance, violent felonies that resulted in dismissal are now eligible for expungement (not just the ones that resulted in acquittal). One small change for the worse is that the filing fee is now $500.00 instead of $300.00.
Of course, the biggest change under the new statute is that certain convictions are now eligible for expungement. There are five requirements that must be met for convictions to be expunged.
1. PAYMENT OF ALL COURT COSTS
2. COMPLETION OF PROBATION OR PAROLE
3. CERTIFICATE OF PARDON/PASSAGE OF TIME:
For felony convictions, the client must have been granted a certificate of pardon AND 180 days must have passed since the issuance of the pardon.
For misdemeanor convictions, three years must have passed from date of conviction.
4. NO PRIOR CONVICTIONS EXPUNGED UNDER THE STATUTE
The easiest way to explain this condition is to say that you can only get two expungements for misdemeanor convictions and one expungement for a felony conviction. However, it’s actually a good bit more complicated than that. For the purposes of the statute, “one expungement [includes] all charges or convictions stemming from the same arrest or incident.”
For example, let’s say that you end up getting charged with burglary in the third degree, theft in the third degree, and possession of a controlled substance all at the same time. You plead guilty to all of them as charged. You can get all three felony convictions expunged because under the statute, they count as a single conviction.
The statute will likely create some gray areas for misdemeanor convictions. For instance, if a person were convicted of a felony and a misdemeanor arising from one incident, would it count as one expungement for purposes subsequent misdemeanor convictions?
5. ONLY CERTAIN OFFENSES:
The last and most significant limitation has to do with the nature of the charge. There are three big restrictions: 1. it cannot be a sex offense 2. It cannot involve a commercial driver’s license 3. It cannot be a “crime of moral turpitude.”
The big picture is that most non-sex misdemeanors and most third or fourth degree non-sex felonies are eligible for expungement.
If you have an old charge or conviction that has been holding you back, the new expungement is worth looking into. If you’re unsure whether your charge is eligible for expungement or have questions about the process, give us a call today.