In 2014, criminal record expungement became legal in Alabama. Both juveniles and adults can expunge their criminal history (there are some limitations on expunging adult records). An expungement removes a criminal offense from your record for most purposes.
Expungement and Sealing of Juvenile Criminal Records
Juvenile records may be either expunged or sealed. Records may be sealed two years after a court order was entered. You may request an expungement after you become 23 years old.
If you seal your juvenile records, they are not available for public viewing without a court order. However, sealed records may be unsealed if you have a subsequent conviction or face serious criminal charges. Expunged records are completely removed.
Expungement of Adult Criminal Records
In Alabama, you may expunge adult:
- Non-violent felony charges,
- Misdemeanor charges,
- Traffic violation charges, and
- Municipal ordinance charges.
Expungement is available if you were acquitted, the charges were dismissed, a no-bill was issued by a Grand Jury, or you completed a court-ordered diversion program. You cannot expunge convictions or violent felony charges.
There are waiting periods for certain types of cases. For example:
- If charges were dismissed without prejudice, you must wait until the statute of limitations expires (typically two or five years).
- If you completed a diversion program, you must wait one year before requesting expungement.
To request expungement, you must file a Petition for Expungement with the circuit court. The judge will consider a series of factors before approving or denying your petition. These factors include the:
- Severity and nature of your charges,
- Circumstances under which your offense occurred,
- Date of your charges,
- How old your were at the time of the offense,
- Whether you were a first-time or repeat offender,
- Other factors or conditions that contributed to the offense,
- Your probation, parole records, reports and recommendations,
- Whether the charges were dismissed or part of a plea agreement that involved a guilty plea,
- Evidence of rehabilitation, and
- Any other relevant factors (such as the presence of prior expungements).
- The judge may require a hearing, especially if the prosecutor objects to your petition.
Associated Fees and Paperwork
The filing fee for an adult expungement is $300. You may also be charged for court costs, docket fees, and attorney fees. If you need help paying these fees, you may file an Affidavit of Substantial Hardship with the circuit court. If the court approves your affidavit, you may pay your expungement-related fees over time. (However, the expungement will not occur until your payments are completed.)
Implications of a Successful Expungement
If the circuit court grants your petition, you may lawfully state on a job application or in an interview that the expunged criminal record does not exist. When most employers search your Alabama criminal record, the charges will not be present. (Expunged charges will be disclosed if you apply for a law enforcement job.)
However, if your criminal record prevents you from legal possessing a firearm, an expungement does not restore this privilege.
Consulting an Attorney
A successful expungement petition requires supporting evidence, including information about your rehabilitation and good behavior. A criminal lawyer can help guide you through the expungement process. Additionally, a lawyer can speak on your behalf during a circuit court hearing and give you the best chance of expunging your record.