HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Having your name cleared in a court of law doesn’t necessarily mean your record is, a legal dilemma that’s now being tackled at the state capitol.
A bill that would allow the permanent sealing of arrest records for people who were charged but never convicted went to the desk of Gov. Robert Bentley this week after passing by a near-unanimous margin in the Alabama House.
Proponents said being cleared of charges should equate to a clear record for job seekers since background checks conducted by most employers almost always search arrest history. Some say it could improve job prospects for many people.
“I think it should have been done a long time ago,” said Huntsville defense attorney Mark McDaniel, who calls the legislation a matter of fairness. “You have situations where people don’t get jobs, they don’t get promotions if they’ve got some arrest on their record that they weren’t even convicted of.”
Gov. Bentley is expected to sign the bill into law, but there are a few caveats. Police can still access the sealed records as long as they can prove it’s for investigative purposes, and a defendant must initiate a request for their arrest record to be expunged. Arrests for some violent crimes are also exempt.
Judges who would receive expungement requests are permitted, but not required, to seal the arrest records.