Alabama Will Allow the Expunging of Arrest Records

In the United States of America, individuals accused of a crime are considered innocent until proven guilty, at least from a legal standpoint. It is an idea known as presumption of innocence that was, for the US, established legally with the 1895 case of Coffin v. United States. It is a philosophy we cling to as an ideal of the American justice system. The truth, however, is that we as individuals often equate an arrest with guilt.

A person accused of a crime but does not get a conviction for it still has an arrest on their record, a record that is often publicly available. Such it is that even a person who was falsely accused of a crime, subsequently arrested for it, and then acquitted of that crime could still be denied employment by a prospective employer who does a background check. Presumption of innocence may rule the legal world, but in the social world, being accused of a crime in the first place is usually seen as a stain on reputation.

Alabama has recently taken steps to address this issue in the form of a new law that takes effect on the 7th of July. This law will allow Alabama residents to remove from their record any arrests for non-violent crimes that did not result in convictions. There are restrictions on the length of time that must pass between the arrest and the expunging that vary based both on the nature of the charge and the specific form of resolution of the charge, as well as in some cases the length of time since programs like drug-related rehabilitation or treatment for mental health issues if those were part of the agreement to dismiss charges.