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Expungement is the process to clear a criminal record, such as arrests, investigations and convictions, from public view so prospective employers, landlords, insurance companies, and others conducting background checks will not see it. Expungment is particularly desirable to clear offenses committed as a juvenile, however, law enforcement will still see the criminal record.
If you meet certain eligibility requirements, you may file an expungment petition with the court. It is in your interest to consult a Huntsville expungement attorney to complete the petition and represent you when the court considers the petition.
Eligibility for expungement is not only dictated by the laws in your state, but by the type of criminal offense as well. Typically, state law outlines the amount of time that must pass before you are eligible for expungement for your specific offense. However, the severity of your offense, whether you were convicted, and your criminal history in general may push back your eligibility date. A criminal defense attorney in Huntsville can serve as a knowledgeable resource to help you determine when you are eligible as well as assisting you with preparing for the process in a timely manner.
Oftentimes, the expungement process begins by serving, or delivering, an application or petition to the prosecutor’s office. Some states require the prosecutor to sign off on the application before the court will even consider expunging an offense from your record. Other states may need you or your attorney to file an Order of Expungement with the court for review and signature by a judge. With your application or order, you likely need to include court records or other documentation regarding your original conviction for the court to review. For less serious offenses, your process may end here and your expungement may be granted. If your petition is denied, you have a criminal history, or you are dealing with a more serious offense, you may need to go to a court hearing for the judge to make a determination or the court may request you provide additional documentation.
The length of time it takes to have a record expunged turns not only on the laws in Alabama, but a number of other factors as well. In most jurisdictions that allow expungement, the type of record you wish to have expunged dictates the necessary period of time that must pass before you may even apply. Once you are eligible, Alabama has its own specific process and required filings to initiate the process. There may be delays in the process if Alabama requires the prosecutor to sign off on the expungement, or if your records need to be expunged from other state agencies as well such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. Applying for an expungement process tends to be a very “hurry-up-and-wait” process, so it’s good to get a jump start on the process as soon as you become eligible.
Taking the next step forward to clean up your past record and work toward a brighter future should start with consulting with an experienced expungement attorney. Finding the right fit for your case may seem like a daunting task but there are a number of attorneys in your area ready to help advocate on behalf of clients just like you. The LawInfo directory can help you find verified expungement lawyers in Huntsville.
The total cost for an expungement can vary case by case. Depending on your state and records you wish to have expunged, the process could be as little as a few hundred dollars and go up to thousands of dollars. Most states have a specific fee that must be paid when initially applying for expungement. You may need to request court records or complete other court filings, which may come with additional fees determined by the jurisdiction. That being said, some states offer waivers to those with financial hardship to offset the costs associated with expungement. Sometimes you may need to have the records expunged from multiple state agencies, which may add more fees as well. Or you may need to pay fees to have driving or professional licenses reinstated. Another important expense to consider when applying for an expungement is attorney fees.
Sometimes having a record expunged is referred to as “setting aside a conviction.” An expungement generally erases or hides your criminal record under most circumstances. This hides the arrest or conviction from public records and generally out of view from any background searches. Once the record is expunged, you typically do not need to disclose it. This makes it easier for many when applying for a new job, school, or apartment. However, it is not completely erased, as certain government agencies entities such as law enforcement or criminal courts may be able to see previous arrests or convictions and it may exist on other platforms that had it prior to the expungement. Even an expunged record may affect sentencing in future legal proceedings or lead to immigration issues.
An attorney can often resolve your particular legal issue faster and better than trying to do it alone. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal system, while avoiding costly mistakes or procedural errors. You should seek out an attorney whose practice focuses on the area of law most relevant to your issue.
Prepare for your consultation by writing down notes of your understanding of the case, jot down questions and concerns for the attorney, and gather your documents. Remember that you are trying to get a sense of whether the attorney has your trust and can help you address your legal issues. Questions should include how the attorney intends to resolve your issue, how many years he/she has been practicing law and specifically practicing in your area, as well as how many cases similar to yours the attorney has handled. It can also be helpful to broach the subject of fees so that you understand the likely cost and structure of your representation by a specific attorney and/or legal team.
The more experienced a lawyer is in legal practice, the more likely he/she will be able to bring about a successful resolution to your issue. Since experience matters, lawyers who’ve been practicing law for many years (with a successful track record) tend to be in high demand. You should look for information about a lawyer’s experience and ask questions during the initial meeting. It’s a very good idea to ask the lawyer how many years he/she has been practicing law and the expected outcome of your case.
Pro se – This Latin term refers to representing yourself in court instead of hiring professional legal counsel. Pro se representation can occur in either criminal or civil cases.
Statute – Refers to a law created by a legislative body. For example, the laws enacted by Congress are statutes.
Subject matter jurisdiction – Requirement that a particular court have authority to hear the claim based on the specific type of issue brought to the court. For example, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court only has subject matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy filings, therefore it does not have the authority to render binding judgment over other types of cases, such as divorce.