Represent yourself? Abraham Lincoln once said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” President Lincoln was an attorney first, and felt no one (including an attorney) should represent themselves in a court case. History tells us that Honest Abe didn’t originate this idea, which appeared in writings as early as 1814 by the lesser known Henry Kett.

The truth is, there are some limited circumstances in which representing yourself might not be catastrophic.

1. Minor traffic offenses;

2. First offense Class B or C misdemeanors that you know you are guilty of, and you just want to plead guilty or apply for a diversion program; and

3. Small claims or District Court civil cases where the amount in controversy is less than $10,000.

In all of the above circumstances, the cases are heard in District Court where the rules of evidence are relaxed and the judges are accustomed to working with those representing themselves “pro se”. In these types of cases, the stakes are usually very low and if you are not successful, you can probably live with the results, and you have saved money without hiring an attorney.

Moreover, even in cases where the outcome doesn’t really matter to you. You may be better off with an attorney because having an attorney could save you an enormous amount of time. Many court dockets have hundreds of cases set on the same day. Judges routinely handle cases that have an attorney first. We have seen instances where minor cases with an attorney are in and out of court in under 15 minutes, where someone with a similar case without an attorney may sit for up to 12 hours waiting their turn.

In all other cases, it is wise to hire professional representation. If you are convicted of a Class A misdemeanor or any Felony, jail is a real possibility. On top of jail, there are other consequences that a legal professional may be able to help you avoid, like loss of your driver’s license, and loss of your voting and firearms privileges.

There is a reason that law school lasts 3 years. Although, there is a lot to learn. Therefore, if you haven’t been through it, you don’t know what you don’t know. Having witnessed many people represent themselves in Circuit Court over the years, it never goes well. They do not know the appropriate motions to file (despite what they read on Google), and never know how to properly object to inadmissible evidence. In truth, pro se litigants in serious cases are usually thought of as crazy or arrogant by court personnel.

Public Defenders

If you simply can’t afford an attorney, you are still better off with the public defender. Public defenders get a bad rap and are in most cases decent attorneys. Often the complaints against public defenders are on issues that aren’t really their fault. Some complain that public defenders are inexperienced. That may be true, but they still have more experience than someone that has never practiced law. Public defenders are often overworked and are certainly underpaid, and they don’t have the time to dedicate to each case that they would like, yet they are still trained on how to try a case, and you likely are not.

Experienced Attorneys

Do yourself a favor, if you have a serious legal case, where the results matter and can afford an attorney, call a law firm with experience and a long history of success. Call our firm at 205-502-2000 today.

3 questions to ask: How to hire the right attorney for your case. If you are the suspect in a criminal investigation, you probably want to find the best attorney you can afford. But how do you do that?

First, you have to narrow down the attorneys that you want to interview. There are thousands of criminal defense attorneys, and you simply don’t have time to meet with all of them. Narrow your list down to just a few law firms. You do this by asking your family or friends who they recommend, asking an attorney you may know for a recommendation, or by researching criminal attorneys online. Once you have narrowed your list to around 3 firms that interest you, begin scheduling face to face meetings. Take the time to meet with the attorney. Show them that the case is important enough to you for you to take time to meet. Most attorneys will meet with you at little or no charge, but ask if there is any fee when you schedule the appointment, just to be sure.

Once you have a chance to meet with the attorney, we believe there are three primary questions you should ask any law firm prior to making a hiring decision.

1. Has your firm ever handled this type of case?

People are often most familiar with the personal injury attorneys that advertise on TV and have large billboards. While they may be good at what they do, most of them don’t practice criminal defense law, and probably wouldn’t represent you even if you wanted them to. Just because the attorney has a law degree, doesn’t mean they have experience in your specific type of case. You may like being a guinea pig, but we doubt it. All things being equal, who in their right mind wants to be an attorney’s first case if their freedom is on the line? No one.

2. Has your firm ever been successful with this type of case?

Just because a law firm has handled the same type of case, doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. The next question you want to ask is whether that law firm ever SUCCESSFULLY handled this type of case. If they say they have, ask for examples. They usually are allowed to provide the names of cases, as long as those are public record. However, due to rules regarding the attorney-client privilege they may not be able to give you specific names of former clients they have assisted with similar cases that weren’t public, but they should be able to give you examples of cases, without disclosing names. If they have handled 10,000 of this type of case and lost every one, you may want to look for a different law firm.

While you want someone that has experience and has been successful, be careful of any attorney that makes you a GUARANTEE that they will win your case. It is unethical to make such guarantee, and no attorney can accurately predict what a jury will do 18 months down the road. Any attorney that makes such a guarantee is just trying to close the sale and get you to pay them.

3. How much will your services cost?

Only after you have determined that the law firm you are talking with has experience in successfully handling your type of case should you consider paying them any money. Also, you may discover that you simply cannot afford their services.

Ask for a retainer agreement. Most reputable law firms will present you with a client contract or retainer agreement which details the terms of representation. If they don’t do this, you should ask them to put in writing how much they are charging you and what this payment covers.
For instance, Alabama law allows attorneys to represent clients for a limited purpose, such as a bond hearing or preliminary hearing. You want to make sure that if you are hiring the attorney to take the case all the way to trial, that they can’t later say they need more money.

You should only hire that attorney if you truly believe you will be able to afford them. It is not a good idea to have an attorney representing you on such a serious matter, while you are failing to pay them for their services. Eventually, that attorney will try to withdraw from your case. Too often we see clients pay money for an attorney, that they later cannot afford, and they have to start over after paying thousands of dollars to another attorney. In some cases, they are left with the public defender.

In closing, make sure you hire the most experienced and successful law firm you can afford for your specific case. The right attorney can make all the difference in the results.

Infographic: The advantages of hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. Hindsight is 20/20. Few adages are more true, and prisons are filled with men who learned this lesson the hard way. If you are charged with a crime, any attorney won’t do. You need the best possible attorney, one with extensive experience and a high success rate with cases like yours. Most people will never be charged with a crime or have reason to hire a defense attorney. However, America does have the highest incarceration rate in the world. The NAACP reports that of American males aged 18 and up: 1 of every Caucasians, 1 of every 36 Hispanics, and 1 of every 15 African Americans is incarcerated. Many of those people never saw it coming.

Why Should You Hire a Criminal Attorney?

The primary reason you should hire a criminal attorney is because your freedom and your future are at stake. Consider it this way: If you had a brain tumor, you’d go straight to a neurologist specializing in oncology, would you not? You certainly wouldn’t go to a dermatologist or an OB/GYN. They wouldn’t know what to do with you! Just as is the case with medicine, attorneys tend to specialize in different areas of the law.

While it’s true they study a bit of everything in law school, by the time they’ve spent a decade or two working in a particular niche, it’s that niche they know best. Therefore, if you wish to write a will, go to an attorney who specializes in estate planning. If you need a divorce, go to a divorce attorney. If you’re charged with a crime, you should only consider hiring the best criminal defense attorney available.

What are the Advantages of Hiring an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney?

There are a number of excellent reasons to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney when accused of a crime. Many cases are won or lost on technicalities. You’ll want to make certain your attorney knows the law inside out.

An experienced criminal defense attorney is connected to others within the legal system. Your case won’t be his first trip to court. He knows the procedure, the courtroom personnel, the judges, the jury selection process and the loopholes.

  • Experienced attorneys know know how to strategize, and how to optimize your chances for winning your case.
  • Experience helps attorneys spot inconsistencies that can work in your favor.
  • If the accusation against you involves drugs, you will want to look for an attorney with a successful track record with drug cases. If you’re charged with a white collar crime, there are attorneys who specialize in that, too. The same is true when the death of another human being is involved. It cannot be over-emphasized: Hire an attorney who has proven he can win the kind of case being levied against you.

What’s the Best Way to Find the Best Criminal Defense Attorney?

Having little experience in finding an experienced criminal defense attorney, many people initially are daunted by the prospect. However, it need not be intimidating. Criminal defense attorneys are well-aware that many of their clients are bewildered by the whole legal process, and you should find they’ve taken steps to be visible in your time of need. The following steps will serve as a guide in showing you how to hire a good criminal attorney.

  • Also, search using the name of individual firms and the word “reviews.” Check with Yelp, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau and your state’s bar association.
    Ask friends and family for recommendations.
  • Go to the courthouse and watch some cases being tried. Often, seeing an attorney in action is helpful in making a choice.

Once you’ve narrowed the field, schedule initial appointments to meet the attorneys who made the cut. Be prepared. Take all relevant information concerning your case with you, such as papers you were provided by the court, bail documents, police reports, etc. Bring a list of other people who are pertinent to your case, such as the names and addresses of victims, witnesses, and any other defendants. Go prepared to take notes. Remember, it is important to feel the attorney is sincere, capable, and someone with whom you can establish rapport. You should not hesitate to ask for any of the following information.

  • Ask to be provided with the attorney’s retainer agreement. Take it home with you to read and make note of any questions you might have. You should feel free to ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
  • Ask what they think might be the likely outcome of your case. While you don’t want to hire someone who will lie to you and get your hopes up, you also don’t to hire an attorney who doesn’t have confidence in their ability to succeed.

Make sure the attorney you retain is one who explains things in such a way that you’re able to understand them. This is particularly true if you lack a basic understanding of how the legal system works. Hire a local attorney if at all possible. Although some may find the attorney choosing process stressful, it is important to take your time and do the job well. When your freedom is on the line, settle for nothing less than the most competent attorney available.

7 Reasons People Talk To The Police – And Why You Shouldn’t. Often, one of our first encounters with a potential client involves them telling us that the police want to talk to them. What should they do? Thankfully, they’ve gotten in touch with us before making a big mistake. What do we tell those people (and are now telling you at no charge)?

If you think it is even remotely possible that you are under suspicion for a crime, NEVER talk to the police without first speaking to an attorney. Most people, especially innocent clients, usually don’t understand this advice at first.

First, they say they have “nothing to hide.”

The purpose of every interview is to get you to confess to a crime. Investigators go through hours of training on how to get people to confess. They are trained on how to ask questions. All with the goal of getting a confession or at least get you to say something inconsistent or against your interests. Part of the Miranda warning people are usually given before they talk to police is: “Anything you say can and WILL be used AGAINST you in a court of law.” Whatever you say will be used against you. That’s a pretty good reason not to talk.

Believe it or not, it is common for innocent people to confess. Some studies suggest that up to 25% of confessions are “false confessions” given by a defendant who is confused, tired, misheard the question, is misunderstood by the detective or is simply wanting to get out of the interview room because they’ve been there for hours.

Many people are surprised to learn that the FBI usually does not record their interviews with suspects. (They have suggested a change to this policy, but many agents still follow the old protocol.) They have two agents sit in a room with the suspect. One agent asks questions and the other takes notes. Because they don’t record the conversation with you, it is their word versus your word about what exactly you said. What happens if they misunderstand something you say and tell the jury that you confessed? A jury will probably believe them, and not you.

Next, they say that by not talking to the police it “makes me look guilty.” If the police suspect you are involved in a crime and want to talk to you, something they know ALREADY makes you look guilty. They are already suspicious of you. Further, the fact that you do not talk to them and request an attorney instead is not admissible in court.

They also talk to police because “it will look good” for them. Once you have an attorney representing you, you will have plenty of opportunities to cooperate as the case progresses, if that is the best strategy. In more than 35 years of criminal law practice, we’ve never seen a judge punish a defendant because they asked to speak to an attorney before talking to a detective.

They talk to police because “they promised” not to charge them or give them a deal in court if they would just tell the truth. People are shocked to learn that the law allows police to lie to you. Investigators know this and use this to their advantage. They will tell you that evidence points to your guilt, even if such evidence doesn’t exist, just to get you to confess. They will make you promises that they won’t charge you or will help you get a good deal if you just confess.

This is a lie because they don’t have that authority. No police officer can give you a deal, only the prosecutor can do so and usually a prosecutor is not even involved in the case when the police are asking to speak to you. If cooperation appears to be your best option, then a good attorney will negotiate that cooperation with the prosecutor, who unlike police, is required to keep their promise.

The police “already know everything.” This doesn’t mean that what they know will be admissible or even available in 18 months or more when your case goes to trial. Yet if YOU give them evidence against yourself, the prosecution will probably still be able to move forward against you even if other star witnesses are no longer available or evidence goes missing.

“I need them to know my side of the story.” This is a valid reason to want to talk to the police, but not to actually talk to the police. A good attorney will be able to get your story to the police on your behalf. By allowing the attorney to do it for you, the detectives can’t manipulate what they are told and use it against you. You also get your story to them without subjecting yourself to a lengthy interrogation.

“I can lie my way out of this.” This is the worst reason for someone to talk to the police. The only thing worse than talking to the police about your case is LYING to the police about the case. To do so is actually a separate crime. Remember Martha Stewart? She did not go to jail for insider trading. She went to jail because she tried to talk her way out of a situation. However, got caught lying to federal investigators. Barry Bonds was not convicted of steroid use, but of obstruction of justice for lying.

If you give a statement to detectives, they are trained to prove you are lying and will likely be able to do so. And remember, they can’t say you lied, if you simply refuse to talk to them.

Suspected of a crime? Do not talk. Do not lie.

If the police want to talk to you, tell them you want your attorney and call us immediately.

Southaven, MS Man Killed After Encounter With Police on LSD. Troy Goode, a healthy, 30-year old engineer with a wife and infant son, was, among many other things, a lifelong Widespread Panic fan. Like many who grew up listening to the band’s shows. Even those who grew up around a friend who constantly played the ‘Spread (perhaps to their annoyance), attending a Panic concert was a special event for Troy. And as he got older, as many of us find, the shows we are able to catch get fewer and farther between. As life begins to turn that young man’s freedom to travel into a fond, distant memory.

Unfortunately, Troy and his wife had to leave the show early due to Troy’s apparent intoxication. Troy began acting erratically, exiting the vehicle at one point, and soon drew the attention of the Southaven, MS police. Chief Tom Long of Southaven PD says the authorities were told that Troy was experiencing an “alleged LSD overdose.” Certainly we await results of an autopsy and toxicology report. The most cursory internet search reveals the concept of an “overdose on LSD” to be pure misconception at best, and sinister propaganda at worst. A preliminary autopsy report indicates that Troy died from a heart-related issue.

According to the family’s lawyer, Tim Edwards, Troy was acting “erratically,” but was not violent when the police forcibly subdued him. Of course, police must take every precaution. When approaching a potential suspect who appear to be on psychoactive drugs, are non-compliant and acting erratically. However, the manner in which Southaven PD subdued Troy is the real cause for concern. According to official police statements, eyewitness testimony, and cell phone video camera footage capturing the entire ordeal, what happened next was as follows:

1. This man was taken to the ground by an officer who then subdued him by sitting on his back;
2. During his arrest, officers restrained Troy’s arms and legs by “hog-tying” them behind his back;
3. Troy was then placed face-down on a stretcher;
4. He reportedly communicated to officers multiple times that he was struggling to breathe (note – Troy had asthma);
5. Troy was kept in this position (and thus not taken to the hospital) for over an hour, according to eyewitness reports.

The District Attorney John Champion refuses to say “hog-tied.” According to Champion, “… I refuse to use that term, because that’s not what this is.” Troy was placed in leg irons, which were then attached to the handcuffs he had on behind his back. Champion further stated that in his opinion, the way the officer used the leg irons on Troy was “within the law.” While I certainly hope Mr. Champion is incorrect about the legality of the use of leg irons and handcuffs in tandem behind a person’s back, even if he is correct, this practice should be reviewed given the risk of positional asphyxiation presented by “hog-tying” (I have no problem with using the term – I’ve seen a hog tied, and I am sorry to report that on video, it appears Troy was restrained in a very similar manner). Even on LSD he should have been handled differently.

Troy was eventually taken to Baptist Hospital. After a couple of hours, Troy’s family got a call from the police, saying that Troy’s condition was “stable,” but that if any family showed up at the hospital to check on their family member, they would be arrested for “obstruction of justice.” Soon after this exchange, an employee of the hospital called the family to inform them that Troy had passed away.

This story has had a surprisingly mixed response in Alabama. While many express sympathy and extend condolences to the family of the deceased, some seem to take this opportunity to advance their “anti-drug” agenda, and others outright blame Troy for his own death. It’s this last group I’d like to address here:

You are essentially arguing that “if he hadn’t taken LSD, he wouldn’t be dead.” And in all likelihood, that is a true statement. But it is also a useless statement. It’s like saying “if I hadn’t bought her that car, she never would have died in that car crash.” The argument does away with the relevant proximate cause of the death, and substitutes what is known as actual, “but-for” cause. This second conception of causation is infinitely broader than proximate cause (ie the real reason Troy is dead v. the million different decisions he hypothetically could have made that day and ended up alive).

In short, to blame Troy for his death because he took LSD is to ignore the most salient facts we have that offer a more plausible explanation for his death than “LSD overdose.” Between the anxiety of forcible restraint, the pre-existing asthma condition and ignored complaints from Troy that he couldn’t breathe, it appears his LSD intake (estimated as being 4-5 “hits”) is the least likely cause of his death.

The police have a difficult and dangerous job. They regularly encounter dangerous individuals on mind-altering substances. They are charged with the duty of enforcing the laws of their jurisdiction, but are not trained as lawyers. The police make mistakes. However, it appears this death was totally avoidable, and practices such as “hog-tying,” treatment complaints of asphyxiation, and police response to reports of people suspected of being on psychedelic drugs, are all issues that need to be examined. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Troy Goode. You can donate to Troy’s family at the link below:

Operation T-Bone: Alabama’s Crackdown on Food Stamps Fraud. Teams of Alabama law enforcement officials this morning executed 242 search warrants and made 17 arrests as part of “Operation T-Bone,” an extensive, multi-agency crackdown on food stamps fraud. Investigators filed for forfeiture and condemnation of 11 stores. Alleged to be involved in the fraud, totaling over $1 million in assets. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office launched the investigation back in February. Now claim to have proof that the individuals arrested bilked the taxpayer-funded food stamps system for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They also uncovered evidence that some of the ill-gotten gains were wired to Yemen.

Over 900,000 Alabama citizens get government assistance through EBT cards each year. These cards can be used to purchase food and non-alcoholic drinks through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Investigators allege that the business owners arrested would purchase these EBT cards from welfare enrollees for $0.50 on the dollar. Use the cards to make wholesale purchases of food and drinks to sell in their stores. The person selling their EBT card would then be able to spend the cash. Furthermore, on alcohol, tobacco, illicit substances, or whatever they want.

“Part of the problem, in my opinion, is now they don’t have their food stamps card so they don’t have the money to take care of their families or themselves,” says Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Raulston. “I think it’s a huge cycle of remaining impoverished.”

The investigation had humble beginnings – Gardendale police arrested a man for shoplifting steaks and other items from the local Wal-Mart, and when he was questioned, he claimed he was giving the stolen merchandise to two local convenience stores to resell. When investigators called Wal-Mart’s Global Investigations Unit to see if they wanted to probe further, they were told that Wal-Mart was already investigating those stores for EBT fraud. Investigators learned not only of the scheme to buy EBT cards and purchase stock with them, but also that stores would overcharge for an item and give the cardholder cash back on their purchase.

Raulston called the problem “pervasive” and rampant, saying all it took to fraudulently obtain an EBT card is to walk into the community and mention a beneficiary card. Another concern, beyond the theft of taxpayer funds, is the inflated prices caused by EBT card fraud. According to Raulston:

“One of the biggest issues is they’re marking up these items in the stores and charging more than what retailers would charge and they’re in the middle of food deserts with no transportation so they don’t have a lot of options” … “It’s not only the EBT card beneficiaries, but you’ve got the working poor paying marked up prices. They’re getting ripped off.”

Zohydro, the new Oxy? Criminal defense attorneys historically accustomed to dealing with clients charged with illegal possession of oxycodone, Xanax, methadone, and dihydrocodeine will soon become familiar with the a recently approved pain medication called Zohydro.

For years, drug abusers raided medicine cabinets looking for OxyContin, with many hard core abusers freebasing it. However, drug manufacturers modified the oxycontin formula. However, causing it to gelatinize, making it difficult, if not impossible for drug addicts to inject it through a syringe.

Zohydro, which first hit the market in 2014, is a time released painkiller containing hydrocodone. It is not believed to be manufactured with the abuse deterrent factors now implemented by the makers of OxyContin. Unlike previous hydrocodone products on the market, such as Vicodin and Lortab, Zohydro reportedly does not contain any acetaminophen. Therefore, leaving promoters to claim it is safer due to liver damage attributed to acetaminophen overdose. However, due to the high levels of hydrocodone contained in Zohydro, opponents fear an addiction epidemic is on the way.

Law enforcement officials have fought to prevent Zohydro’s release into the market, but it appears it has been a losing fight. Now they will gear up to prosecute those in possession of Zohydro without a prescription. It is also likely both state and federal prosecutors will carefully monitor the amounts of Zohydro prescribed by pain management clinics. If inordinate amounts of the drug are being prescribed by any one doctor, the authorities are likely to initiate criminal “pill mill” proceedings against the doctor and his company. Furthermore, federal drug conspiracy, drug distribution and money laundering charges.

Only time will tell, but as long as pain killers are available, there will be those that abuse them. It is suspected that Zohydro will be no different.

Second Suspect Arrested in Birmingham Homicide Investigation. Aronde Samuels, 22, has been arrested by Birmingham police and becomes the second suspect taken into custody in connection to a June homicide incident that took place in the 1800 Block of 3rd Place Southwest.  Samuels was finally located after a witness came forward and identified him in conjunction with the murder of 53-year-old Arthur Mills.  He is currently being held without bail at the Jefferson County Jail and has been charged with capital murder.

The first suspect, Davarius McGee, has been charged with capital murder, first-degree robbery, and attempted murder.  Therefore, he is currently being held at the Jefferson County Jail on two $60,000 bonds.

The murder took place at 5:10 p.m. on June 15th when Juliette Lockett was attempting to leave her home.  She was approached by the suspects who stole a ring from her finger and her 2009 silver Cadillac CTS.  Her neighbor, Arthur Mills, confronted the men and shots were exchanged.  The rear window of an SUV on Lockett’s property was shot out and Mills was struck in the chest.  He was rushed to UAB Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:42 p.m.

Although, Lockett died from a massive heart attack on July 19, exactly one month and five days after the attack outside of her home.

Detectives continue their search for a third suspect. Anyone with information about the case to call Birmingham’s Homicide Unit at 205-254-176 or CrimeStoppers at 205-254-7777.

Forkland Mayor Surrenders to Face Felony Charges. Derrick Biggs, the mayor of Forkland, Alabama, has surrendered to Greene County authorities and will now face charges of first-degree theft and tampering with government records. Biggs had been sought by police since it was discovered that more than $6,000 was missing from the Forkland’s water department. If convicted, Biggs would have to vacate the office of mayor of the town since state law prohibits a person with a felony conviction from holding elective office. Records show that Biggs was booked into the Greene County Jail at 11:49 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

An investigation by the Greene County Sheriff’s Office remains ongoing. However, Forkland’s water clerk, Allene Broadwater, reported on Monday that a total of $6,413.19. Furthermore, is currently unaccounted for between December 2013 and April 2014.  The discrepancy was first found a few months ago when Broadwater examined the daily cash payments and nightly deposits.  She reported this information to her supervisor. Therefore, who discovered the discrepancies were only taking place on deposits made by or approved by Biggs.

Biggs won his position in an August 2012 municipal election. He is now the second consecutive mayor of the town to be accused of stealing public money while in office.  The former mayor of Forkland, Eddie J. Woods, left office after facing a theft charge in Greene County Circuit Court for allegedly stealing money from the town.  The case against Woods is still pending.

In the state of Alabama, theft of property in the first degree is a Class B felony.  The sentencing range for this crime is no more than twenty years in prison, and no less than two years. A fine may also be imposed for these charges, but may not exceed $10,000.00.

If you or someone you know has been accused of theft, it is important that you contact a criminal attorney to handle your case.  The lawyers at Boles Holmes White are experienced in a variety of legal matters and have a history of success in the courtroom. Call to schedule a free consultation today.

Alabama Expungement Law Takes Effect. Have you ever filled out a job application? If you have, you’ve probably been asked, “Have you ever been arrested?” It’s a pretty loaded question.

What if you were arrested, but prosecutors dropped the charges? What should you say then?

If you say no, you’re lying. If you say yes, the person reading the application will judge you for something you didn’t even do. “Well, they were arrested. Therefore, they must’ve done something wrong,” they’ll think. In addition, if they want, they can search the records and see the arrest for themselves.

Alabama’s lawmakers are fixing this problem.  On July 7th, a new expungement law will go into effect that allows Alabamians who have been arrested, but not convicted of a crime, to wipe away their arrest records. The expungment law also covers those that entered and completed deferment programs like drug or DUI court.  If your records are expunged, you may not have to disclose your arrest records on job, credit, or other applications.

Do you qualify to have your arrest records expunged? Let’s find out:

If you were charged with a misdemeanor, traffic violation, or municipal ordinance violation, your arrest records can be expunged. For instance, they can be expunged immediately if your charge was dismissed with prejudice, no-billed by a grand jury, or if you were found not guilty. For example, if the charge was dismissed without prejudice and prosecutors haven’t refiled it, you have to wait two years to expunge your records.

However, if you were charged with a felony, expungement depends on whether or not you were charged with a “violent” felony. Section 13A-11-70 of the Alabama Code lists the felonies that are considered violent. They are:

Most likely, any other felony charges are non-violent and can be expunged immediately if they were no-billed by a grand jury, dismissed with prejudice, or if you were found not guilty. Although, if you were offered a diversion program like mental health treatment, drug rehab, or veterans’ court, you can expunge your records one year after you complete the program. Finally, if your charge was dismissed without prejudice and prosecutors haven’t refiled it, you can get it expunged after five years if you haven’t committed any other crimes during that time.

So you qualify under the new law. How do you start expunging your arrest record? First, send a petition to the circuit court where the charge came from. Your petition will only be considered if you’ve already paid your other court fees and fines. Furthermore, you need to send a copy of your petition to the DA and the law enforcement agency that arrested you. The petition requires:

  • A sworn statement that you meet the law’s requirements;
  • A case action summary or certified copy of the arrest and case disposition;
  • A certified copy of the arrest record from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center;
  • A description of the charges to be considered for removal and a description of the agencies involved in the arrest and any incarceration;
  • And $300 plus any local filing costs or court costs that the court charges.

Firstly, after you submit your petition, the DA’s office and the alleged victims have 45 days to file their own petition to keep the arrest records public. If nobody opposes, the judge can expunge the records right away, but otherwise, the judge will set a hearing at least 14 days from the date of the opposing petition.

Lastly, having a lawyer can make this process much easier.

However, if you have old arrest records hanging over your head, the new law could be a great opportunity for relief. Don’t miss it. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today to see if you qualify for expungement. If you do qualify, that attorney may be your best ally as you draft your petition. Therefore, an attorney can negotiate with the DA, explain your circumstances to the judge, and represent you at a hearing if victims object to your petition. Moreover, should you choose to call an attorney, the defenders at Boles Holmes White, are prepared to help you expunge your old arrest records. Contact us today for a free consultation at 205-502-2000.