Potential Cases & Client Reactions
Interviewer: Are there any particular cases that you could think of where you may receive a call back from someone and you would tell them that an expungement would be very beneficial for this individual? Can you think of any particular past cases?
Brett Hollett: Yes. I refer to these cases as crimes committed in a heat of passion. Some good examples are domestic violence, simple assault, harassment or harassing communications. These cases are typically he-said she-said. They can result from hatred, anger or hurt feelings. Often times, the facts of these cases can vary greatly between witnesses. If you go to court, one party may have decided they no longer want proceed with the case and will fail to show up at the trial. During a hearing or a trial certain facts may come out and what she said or he said really didn’t happen the way they the officer initially wrote his report up.
Right now, an arrest for domestic violence is huge red flag out there on your resume. I think people wrongfully accused of any of these passion crimes or any other crime will benefit immensely from this new law.
Interviewer: In regard to domestic violence cases, what’s going to show up on their record? Is it going to say assault or is it going to say domestic violence?
Brett Hollett: It would depend on how it was charged. Right now, only the misdemeanor domestic violence charge would be eligible for expungement. Domestic violence in the 3rd degree can be charged several different ways. You can be charged with DV3 harassment, DV3 assault, DV3 harassing communications, etc….
Interviewer: What do you think are the majority of the cases you’re going to get? Do you think it’s going to be more domestic violence or do you think you’re going to get more DUIs or drug charges?
Brett Hollett: I think it’ll be across the board. I think we’ll get a fair share of everything. However, I do think, just because of the stigma associated with offenses like assault and domestic violence where it’s more of a he-said she-said type of thing and anybody can swear out a warrant, I think we’ll get a lot of those types of cases.
Interviewer: Have you already had clients calling you and asking you questions about expungement?
Brett Hollett: We have. We’ve tried to reach out to some of our past clients to let them know that this is now a possibility for them and just explain to them what the law is and what the law can do for them and just inform them about the process and when it will go into effect.
Interviewer: What are some of the things that your clients want to know about expungement? What are some common questions that they have for you?
Brett Hollett: They want to make sure that no one will ever be able to see their record. Is it going to be completely wiped clean? Will it be a secret? Will they have to tell their employer or anybody else that they’ve ever been arrested for something? That answer is no. If the expungement is ordered then it will be a secret. It will be wiped clean. I think the number one question that we get is “What is this going to do for me?”
Interviewer: When you tell them about expungement, what is their reaction to it? Are they usually in disbelief since they’re used to just not having this option at all?
Brett Hollett: Yeah. I think they’re happy. It’s almost like the light at the end of the tunnel. Like I said, it’s for people that haven’t been convicted of a crime, so these people felt like they were wrongly accused to begin with but still felt like their record was tarnished by this arrest. They felt their accuser was able to still punish them after they were vindicated by the court. Now they can finally see that they can get rid of this record and they can, again, wipe their record clean and start over, which they should have been able to when the case was either dismissed or the case was not pursued by the state anyway, or they were found not guilty. Telling someone that they won their case but still have to deal with having an arrest record is a pretty hard pill to ask them to swallow.
If you’ve got a trial and the person is found not guilty but then they come back to you and say, “When my employer looks at my criminal history, they still see a record of my arrest. Why is that?” you used to have to tell them, “Unfortunately, that’s the way it is in Alabama. The record of the arrest will always be there until we pass an expungement law and we can get your record expunged.” Finally, we’ve done that.
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