Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

New Law Allows Some Residents to Have Their Records Cleared

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

New Law Allows Some Residents to Have Their Records Cleared

Article excerpt

Josh Barnett was a 21-year-old addicted to painkillers when he was charged with selling marijuana and pills.

The arrest inspired Barnett to turn his life around. He sought treatment and had the felony charges dismissed after successfully completing a diversion program. Now 28, Barnett is a certified addiction counselor working in Decatur. He is one of many Alabama residents with nonviolent criminal histories who will seek to have the charges expunged from the record next week.

During its 2014 legislative session, Alabama became one of the last states allowing expungement. The law goes into effect July 7.

The law allows people who were charged, but never convicted, of nonviolent crimes to have their records expunged. Once a court order is granted, people do not have to disclose the arrest on an application for employment, credit, apartment rental or other type of application. They must still disclose the record to any government, regulatory or licensing agency, utility or financial institution.

State Rep. Chris England,

D-Tuscaloosa, had pushed for an expungement bill since 2008. He most wanted to help people who were unable to get jobs because of their criminal records.

"As a prosecutor, I've seen a lot of people who have made some terrible decision who aren't bad people. They just made bad decisions," said England, an attorney for the city of Tuscaloosa. "There are people like this who have been denied countless opportunities for years that will be ready to file these petitions. My number one goal was to give people, through

legislation, their lives back and their opportunities back."

Barnett said that he struggled in the years following his arrest to find employment and housing because of the felony drug charges on his record.

"I'm lucky because my field is more forgiving of people who have a criminal past," he said. "But I see clients all the time who are just set up for failure by the way the system is right now. They can't find anywhere to live or work because of old charges and mistakes they made because of their addiction. …

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