When can and should you file for an expungement?

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2024 | Criminal Defense

An Alabama criminal record can limit someone’s chances in life. Even employers offering minimal pay typically perform background checks. So do colleges and other educational institutions. Landlords may also check to see if someone has had run-ins with the law before deciding to sign a lease with a new tenant.

After a criminal conviction, a defendant may find that their record consistently turns up whenever they seek out new opportunities. An expungement or record sealing is one of the options for helping people eliminate the negative consequences of a criminal record. When is it possible for someone to expunge a criminal record, and when should they attempt to do so?

Alabama expects defendants to wait

Some people seeking expungements have pleaded guilty or gotten convicted of an offense. Others may have simply gotten arrested and charged but never convicted. Regardless of the situation and the type of charges that someone faces, they typically have to wait to qualify for expungement.

Anyone not convicted of a crime can potentially seek an expungement of the official records of their criminal charges. That way, they can pass background check. Typically, people need to wait between 90 days and 12 months to petition for expungement, depending on the type of crime. This rule generally only applies to non-violent offenses. There is a similar rule for expungement related to criminal convictions.

Since 2021, it has been possible for those with a misdemeanor charge to remove the record of that conviction from a permanent criminal record. Doing so is only possible after someone has completely fulfilled their sentence, including the completion of probation.

Typically, expungement for a misdemeanor offense requires that someone wait at least three years from their date of conviction. It is only possible to expunge a maximum of two misdemeanor charges in Alabama. Felony cases are incredibly complex, and most people cannot expunge felony convictions.  Understanding when an expungement is possible is important. Actually acting on that information is even more important.

Expunging records as soon as possible is often smart

If someone waits until they finally get an interview for their dream job to apply for expungement, then they have probably waited too long. Expungement typically takes months to complete, as it requires time in front of a judge. Therefore, the sooner someone applies for expungement, the sooner they can seal the records holding them back from the best future possible.

Those not certain about the right process or worried about representing themselves in court may benefit from discussing their case and exploring whether expungement is a viable option with the assistance of a skilled legal team. Those who successfully expunge their criminal records can significantly improve their circumstances.