Alabama’s expungement law takes effect: People lining up to get records cleared

ma courthouse

(WHNT) – Alabamians with a less-than-perfect past are already lining up to get their record cleared.

Drug offenses, theft offenses, burglary charges, disorderly conduct, DUIs, you name it, attorney Mark McDaniel has seen it all. In the months since the law was first passed, McDaniel has already seen clients hopeful to wipe their record clean.

So, first things first, who qualifies? The law allows for expungement for:

  • non-violent felony charges
  • it can be granted in the event of a no-bill by a Grand Jury
  • dismissal of the charge with prejudice
  • a finding of Not Guilty
  • or one year after completion of a court mandated diversion program

You can also qualify five years after a charge was dismissed without prejudice, as long as the case has not been refiled, you have not been convicted of any other felony, misdemeanor, or traffic violation.

Expungement ProcedureIf a person meets the criteria, you first have to file a petition for expungement, including a sworn statement that the person has satisfied the requirements and whether or not they have previously applied for expungement.

The petition also includes a certified record of arrest, disposition, or the case action summary, a certified official criminal record obtained from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, and ground for the court to consider the motion.

After the petition is filed, the district attorney’s office or the victim then has 45 days to file a written objection to the petition for expungement.

The entire process is costly. Applicants have to pay a $300  administrative fee, on top of court costs – that are yet to be determined – and the cost of hiring a lawyer.

A point you’ll hear come up time and time again with lawyers and lawmakers is how  expungement could help people get jobs.

“Even if it’s on the record and found not guilty, it’s there.  An employer can find it,” said McDaniel. “And it can surely be a reason not to hire a person.”

But because of the high cost of getting that record cleared, those in need of a job most likely can’t afford it.

Fortunately, the law includes a provision that allows applicants to fill out an Affidavit of Substantial Hardship. If approved, the fees can be paid in installments. However, the record will not be cleared until all costs are paid in full.

Some lawyers will also consider representing clients for free, if there is financial need.

15 comments

  • Mike

    What a freaking rip-off/money grab by the legal “profession.” Yeah – it probably would help people get jobs, so once again there’s a captive market CREATED by the very people who benefit from it! Nothing against Mr. McDaniels – I’m quite sure he didn’t write the law. But, $300 in “admin fees” on TOP of court costs – which are around $300-$400 last time I looked into filing anything. PLUS the cost of a lawyer to file a motion? This will end up costing people well over $1000 when it’s all said and done. For someone who doesn’t have a job – the people this is supposed to benefit most – $1000 is not likely very doable. Why the $300 “admin fees?” People at the courthouse are on salary – they’re getting paid whether they’re working or sitting around gossiping and drinking coffee. It can’t possibly “cost” $300 on TOP of the already-exhorbitant court costs. And, if a lawyer really wanted to help people out, they’d set up a class to help people file these on their own. It could not possibly be that complicated.

    • Don

      I dont think $1000 is too much to ask when it means opening up a lifetime of opportunities career-wise.

      • Michael

        Not everyone has $1000 lying around after rent, car payments, bills, food, children, etc. Before you say “Well, just go get a job,” that’s the point. They have a record, many employers will not hire a job applicant just for that reason. They can’t get a job because of the arrest record, yet they can’t get rid of the arrest record because they don’t have a job.

      • Mike

        Hello? McFly? If you don’t have a grand lying around the house, it doesn’t matter what “opportunities” open up for people as a result. Many won’t be able to afford it. As for the Affidavit of Hardship. . . ya’OK. Who files that? When? Hint: a lawyer, in most cases – a lawyer who is going to bill for the time it took to draw up (i.e. get a paralegal to print out from an office computer after filling in a name and date. . . ) the affidavit and submit it with the other paperwork.

  • Pete

    Good… I was concerned wiping people’s slate clean would be too easy. It should NOT be an easy or cheap process. If you committed an infraction, well… you pay the price, literally. If you cant pay… too bad.

      • Pete

        Convicted vs. not convicted is only a matter of who you know and what lawyer you can afford…..the crime stays the same.

    • Mike

      Yeah, a non-violent crime, not-guilty/no-bill/dismissal should screw people for life, Pete.

      What a moron. Try reading the article again, nitwit.

    • Mike

      Yeah, Pete! Because no-bills/dismissed charges/not-guilty findings and non-violent crimes should screw people forever! Running for sheriff, are you? Try reading the article, genius.

  • DR Berry

    People complaining about no money and no job should read the part about help with hardship cases AGAIN. Or do nothing and see if thats a better option.

    • Mike

      People who fail to understand that an Affidavit of Hardship would in most cases be filed by an attorney who requires a significant retainer fee up front should refrain from commenting without thinking first.

  • DR Berry

    Is this only for the state or do you wipe your federal record clean too? In other words can you regain gun ownership rights

  • frank

    HELL IF YOU WERE NOT GUILTY NO NEED TO PAY ANYTHING…IN AMERICA WE ARE SUPPOSE TO BE INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY….SO THE ARREST SHOULD AUTOMATICALLY FALL OFF ONES RECORD, WITH CASE AGAINST ONE BEING LOST WHAT KIND OF JUSTICE IS THIS?

  • frank

    Seem, to me the city county, and or state,or Federal government should for not winning their case.,.ones future should not be hurt,by an arrest ,When one who is found NOT GUILTY PLAIN AND SIMPLE!..IT SHOULD NOT WE GOT HIM BUT WE COULD NOT PROVE IT….WELL GUESS WHAT IT WILL HURT ONES Chances FOR GETTING A JOB,,,,SO AGAIN NO CONVICTION NO Records …CLEAN it up AND LET THE ARRESTING AGENCY PAY FOR IT…..THEY MADE THE Arrest!!!

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