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Expungement in Dothan, Alabama

expungement lawyers - Smith Law FirmBeing arrested, charged, or/and convicted of a crime is a very serious matter, and can have long-lasting implications for a person and his or her future opportunities. As evidenced throughout life, before a person may rent property, be hired for an employment position, or even volunteer for certain activities or seek higher education, a criminal background check is almost always conducted. If a background check shows a record of arrest and charge or conviction of a crime, the individual may be barred from housing, work, and many other opportunities.

Dealing with this fact – that your past may always haunt you – can be challenging, but it does not have to be your reality. Indeed, with expungement, a record of criminal charge can be sealed from state or federal record, which means that in the eyes of the law, the record is erased. This means that those who conduct background checks on you in the future, such as a potential employer, will not be able to see that you have been arrested for and charged with a crime, because the charge will be removed from your record and the public record.

At the law offices of Smith Law Firm, our experienced Alabama attorneys have been helping people like you understand expungement proceedings for years. We are here to help you understanding what it is, the benefits of it, when it is possible, and how the process works.

Expungement: Understanding the Basics

As explained above, expungement is the sealing of a person’s records. Each state has its own process for dealing with expungements, so it is important that if you were arrested, tried, and convicted in Alabama, you work with an attorney. For example, in some states, a person’s record of conviction can be expunged, as explained by the American Bar Association. In Alabama, however, only charges can be expunged. While an expungement will remove a criminal charge from a person’s public record, it is important to note that all courts and law enforcement officials will still have access to the record.

What Types of Criminal Charges Can Be Expunged?

Not all types of criminal charges can be expunged. As outlined by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, only charges for non-felonies and non-violent felonies may be expunged, and only under certain circumstances. These circumstances include:

You may seek expungement of non-felony charges (traffic violations, misdemeanors, and municipal violations) when–

  • The charge was no-billed by a grand jury (meaning the grand jury did not find enough evidence to send the case forward);
  • The charged was dismissed with prejudice;
  • You were found not guilty of the charge; or
  • The charge was dismissed withoutprejudice; and
    • Charges against you have not been sought again; and
    • You have not been convicted of another crime or violation; and
    • More than two years have passed.

You may seek expungement of non-violent felony charges (like drug crimes or white collar crimes) when–

  • A grand jury no-billed the charge;
  • You were found not guilty;
  • The charge was dismissed with prejudice;
  • You completed a drug program/mental health program/deferred prosecution program/etc. ordered by the court, resulting in the dismissal of the charge; or
  • The charge was dismissed without prejudice; and
    • The charge was not refiled; and
    • More than five years have passed; and
    • You have not been convicted of a crime or violation over the past five years.

The Benefits of Seeking Expungement of a Criminal Record in Alabama

The most common reason that people seek expungement of a criminal record in Alabama, and the biggest benefit to doing so, is to prevent others from being able to see their records of arrest or non-conviction criminal charges. This is typically done to help with securing a loan, pursuing higher education or training, getting a job, seeking insurance, securing housing, seeking a professional license, obtaining a volunteer position, etc. Seeking an expungement of a criminal arrest and charge record can feel like a fresh start, providing you with a clean slate moving forward. Again, it is important to note that you cannot expunge a criminal conviction in Alabama. 

The Process of Expunging a Criminal Record of Arrest or Charge

Your petition for expungement of records will be filed with the circuit court in the county in Alabama in which the arrest took place and the charge against you was initially filed. Your petition must contain:

  • Your name;
  • Court of jurisdiction of the case;
  • Case number to be expunged;
  • Charge to be expunged;
  • Details of the offense of which you were charged with (either misdemeanor criminal offense, violation, traffic violation, municipal ordinance, or non-violent criminal offense); and
  • Reasons why you are seeking the expungement request.

In addition to the above, you must also include with your petition a certified record of arrest, certified record of disposition, or certified record of case action summary, and an official criminal record.

Fees for Record Expungement

Like all court processes, there is a mandatory fee that is associated with seeking the expungement of a criminal record: a $300 administrative filing fee. You will also need to pay $25 in order to obtain a copy of your certified criminal history record, which is required when submitting your petition for expungement of a criminal record.

When an Expungement Hearing Is Necessary

Assuming that the petition is filed correctly and your case qualifies for expungement, it is likely that the it will be granted. However, it is possible that your request will be objected to – if this is the case, and either the victim of the crime for which you were arrested and charged or the district attorney files a written objection to your petition, you will have to attend a hearing.

In the event that your petition for expungement case does result in a hearing, the judge over your hearing will have the ultimate say in whether or not your case will be expunged. In order to make this decision, the judge will consider 10 different factors, including:

  1. When your offense took place;
  2. The age that you were when you committed the offense;
  3. The seriousness and nature of the offense;
  4. The circumstances surrounding the offense;
  5. Whether or not the offense occurred one time or multiple times;
  6. Anything that contributed to the offense;
  7. Evidence that you have rehabilitated, such as recommendations from people you work with, counseling, or positive interaction with your community;
  8. Whether or not you plead guilty to a lesser offense;
  9. Whether or not you have a record of parole or probation; and
  10. Any other factors the court deems necessary and relevant.

Why You Should Work with an Experienced Attorney

Clearly, there are many things to consider if you want to expunge a criminal record. The law regarding expungements can be complex, and terms like no-billed, dismissed with prejudice, and nolle prossed can all be confusing to understand. What’s more, if your expungement is objected to and you have to attend a hearing, it will be important to understand how to gather and present evidence to the court that supports the expungement request being granted.

An experienced attorney will be able to guide you through all aspects of the expungement process, and will know how to file your petition and present your case in a hearing. Working with an attorney improves your chances of your request being granted.

Contact Our Law Offices Today

If you have more questions about expungement or are ready to start the process of seeking expungement today, contact our criminal defense attorneys at Smith Law Firm today. You can reach us by sending us a message using the intake form found on our website, or by calling our law offices now at 334-702-1744. Call today to schedule your initial consultation.

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