Alabama Redeemer Act holds promise for some convicted of crimes, pitfalls in some cases

Mobile County

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Starting in July of 2021, people with certain criminal records in Alabama can apply to have the slate wiped clean.

The Alabama Redeemer Act could make it easier for people who’ve paid their debt to society to move on from their past.

Some in the justice system worry the Redeemer Act could let some criminals slip through the cracks. The new law has promise and pitfalls.

Take Billee Burrell for example. She has something from her past she can’t quite shake. More than 20 years ago she says she was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. While she’s paid her debts, she says it blocked her from several jobs since.

“It hurts, you see friends who you’re just as capable of getting those jobs,” said Burrell. “I don’t think it’s fair at all because it happened so long ago.” She might be someone who the new law was designed to help. Burrell said she was eager to find out more about how she could apply for her record to be cleared through the Redeemer Act.

It covers certain crimes. Advocates say it’s a second chance for people who are being continually punished for something that happened long ago. District attorneys across the state have the chance to challenge it if someone tries to expunge their records under this act.

“I think it can help in some cases that’s why DA’s can give a recommendation to a judge and it’s ultimately up to a judge to make this decision,” said Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich. Rich has some reservations about the new law pointing out 3rd-degree domestic violence records could be expunged as it’s a misdemeanor in Alabama.

“It’s important we have domestic violence convictions held on the books, if they commit another domestic violence offense that conviction can be held against them,” said Rich. She argues each case up for expungement deserved to be studied.

“I can’t say a blanket “this would be a good thing,” I think we owe it to that individual to look at the case, the facts and circumstances surrounding that case to look at where they are now and then make a decision,” said Rich. The process can be cumbersome and cost-prohibitive. The act requires applicants to pay a $500 fee and they’d likely need a lawyer to do it properly.

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