I-Team: Attorney General Steve Marshall addresses Alabama expungement law

Our I-Team investigation revealed capital murder charges against Demorris Lauderdale are permanently on his record, even though the state has dropped the charges.

Posted: May 7, 2019 4:37 PM
Updated: May 7, 2019 5:17 PM

The WAAY 31 I-Team is taking questions about Alabama's expungement laws to Attorney General Steve Marshall. 

Our investigation revealed capital murder charges against Demorris Lauderdale are permanently on his record, even though the state has dropped the charges. That's because the law says you must be acquitted of a violent crime for it to be removed from your record.

Right now, legal researchers are looking into the expungement law after our investigation caught the eye of a House of Representatives member, Andrew Sorrell. Now, it has the attention of the attorney general. 

"We would clearly be open to be able to examine our expungement law, you know, it's a very recent creation in Alabama," Marshall said. 

It's a recent creation that some argue needs to be addressed. The Alabama expungement law was expanded in 2017. The addition allows for violent offenses, such as capital murder, to be expunged only when a person was found "Not guilty" at trial.

Demorris Lauderdale never had a trial after Huntsville police charged him with capital murder for the death of 19-year-old Austin Rich in March. Lauderdale's attorney presented surveillance pictures that showed his client was hundreds of miles away in Georgia near the time of the murder.

Even though the charges were dismissed due to a lack of probable cause, state law forces the charge and arrest to permanently be on his record.

"This situation may draw a light to a situation in which the statute could be amended, and we look forward to working with the legislature on that," Marshall said. 

That work is already underway. Shoals representative Andrew Sorrell says he believes a change needs to be made.

On Tuesday, Representative Sorrell said the Legislative Services Agency, which provides non-partisan professional services support to the legislature, is looking into the law. If the research illustrates there is a problem, he is open to proposing a bill.

The legislative session is more than halfway through. Representative Sorrell says the chances of a bill making it through this year are slim. Any change would likely come next session.

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