Saturday, March 7, 2009

Senate Bill 475 - Expungement of Criminal Records

Today, I have had some discourse (via e-mail) with the person who penned the draft for this legislation and subsequently passed it along to Senator Smitherman. I felt that I had to offer an apology for not reading this legislation as closely as I should have, I did and will again here. I apologize for not reading the entire bill as closely as I should have, I only read that which pertained to my interest in this bill... firearms. With apology in hand, I still stand by my earlier statement of looks good, feels good, seems to smell bad.

The Alabama Code currently has no method for the redress of criminal records and their expungement. This, in and of itself, is just wrong. I firmly believe that if you are not guilty, you are not guilty... no more discussion... ever.

The way that I interpret this bill is as follows...

In order to have your criminal record expunged, you would have to make petition to the appropriate court and then make your case. This petition would cost between $750 and $1000 to file (I do not know about ancillary costs.) pending if this thing you are trying to expunge were a felony or not. And, there are a few rules that apply if you were accused of certain types of crimes, your petition would be automatically rejected. And, then there are the rules about firearms that got me involved in the first place. Even if your record is expunged, you would still have to mention it when you go to get a firearm or a concealed carry permit.

My take on this is that the fee could be misused and/or could cause great financial hardship to the greater population at large. If you are not convicted of whatever crime, for whatever reason, the expungement should be automatic. If you have been pardoned, then make petition and go from there.

Closer inspection of this bit of legislation shows that a fair bit of effort has been put into this. I commend all of those who work toward the betterment of the Alabama Code. I just think that with a bit more effort, this could be good and fair legislation. And, there is other legislation out there, this one caught my eye because of the firearm language.

Final, if I have made any misstatements or just plain gotten it wrong, please show me where and how. I will be most happy to make corrections to this because I do feel that the people of Alabama are being mistreated in regard to criminal record expungement. If, as a commentor to the original post says, Alabama and Arizona are the only two states that do not have a method for expungement of criminal records (regarding dismissed charges), we are just as wrong as those states that do not allow their citizenry to concealed carry.

And Final for real this time... it is better to have something on the books that allows a person a path to expungement (no matter how flawed or how much I don't like it) than no path at all. Thanks for your patience Darryl.