For the first time, Alabama residents for whom a long-ago conviction for certain crimes continues to burden their lives have the opportunity for a second chance.
A conviction for a low-level offense can follow you for years in all sorts of ways. Even though you served your sentence years ago, having a conviction on your record can stop you from getting hired for jobs you are qualified for. Without the chance for more than low-paying jobs with no chance for advancement, you may struggle to afford the basics like food and housing.
It was only 2014 when Alabama allowed people charged with a crime to expunge the charges from their record. Expungement means that a judge essentially erases the charge from the record. But convictions could not be expunged — until now.
Redeemer Act is coming soon
Starting in July, the Alabama Redeemer Act will go into effect. This new statute will expand the expungement law to include convictions for several non-violent crimes, mostly misdemeanors but some felonies. The idea is to end the cycle of punishment for people who long ago paid their debt to society and are trying to move on with their lives. Supporters also say expungement can reduce recidivism, or returning to criminal activity. Someone who cannot get a job may become desperate and commit another crime like drug trafficking.
Expungement is not a quick process
Expunging a conviction from your record will not be automatic. There will be a process to go through and the district attorney in your county has the right to challenge your application. You will likely need a defense attorney’s help to give yourself the best chance of getting an expungement.