Since August 1, 2014, Louisiana has a new law outlining the process and procedure for the expungement of criminal records. An expungement is a way for arrests and convictions to be removed from your record and public view. The records are not destroyed and law enforcement will still have access to them. But the general public will not know about your criminal record.
The old law was quirky and an amalgamation of revisions and repeals. There were significant gaps in the old law and different court houses and court rooms would yield different results for similarly situated people. In short, getting an expungement was an expensive hassle and most lawyers couldn't even tell you the effect of an expungement. The new law makes the process and procedure more uniform and clears up many of the gaps in the old law. The new expungement law is still far from perfect but it is a giant leap forward.
Expungements are applied for in a motion to the court where your criminal case took place. It is up to the judge to grant or deny the motion and the District Attorney, the arresting law enforcement agency and/or the state police can all object to your record being expunged. However, if you meet the requirements under Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 893 for a felony or Article 894 for misdemeanor, your record will be expunged. Here is how the new law benefits you.
1. The costs are capped. Many people who have criminal convictions on their records have difficulty obtaining gainful employment. Their economic fortunes now have a low ceiling, making it difficult to pay the court costs and fees to the state police in order to process your expungement. The costs and fees cannot exceed $500 total as a result oif the law change. In certain circumstances, the fees may be waived. For instance if you were found not guilty at trial or the District Attorney consents to your expungement and a hearing is not needed.
2. Even if you didn't plead guilty under Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 893 or 894, you can still have your arrest expunged. Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 893 outlines the procedure for expungements of felonies and Article 894 outlines the procedures for misdemeanors. When pleading to a crime, you need the judge to accept the plea under the appropriate article and designate it on the waiver of rights, plea of guilty form. Under the old rules, it was unclear whether if your plea was not accepted under 893 or 894, you were still eligible for an expungment, if you met the other conditions. The new law clarifies this. If your plea is not accepted under articles 893 and 894, you can still get your conviction expunged, but there is a 5 year waiting period for misdemeanors and a 10 year cleansing period for felonies, assuming of course, that you meet the other conditions.
3. You can have both the felony arrest and misdemeanor conviction expunged. Let's say you were arrested for a felony but pled to a misdemeanor under article 894. You have the misdemeanor conviction expunged. But will the felony arrest still be on your record? The law makes it clear that you can have both the misdemeanor conviction and the felony arrest both expunged.
4. If your conviction has been expunged, you do not have to disclose it to a potential employer. This question was always asked of me after having an expungement granted. "How do I respond to 'have I been arrested?' on a job application?" I would always give some lawyerly, hair splitting answer about how while the conviction is technically removed from the record, you were in fact arrested and honesty is the best policy and in the age of Google and computerized records, an employer may find out about an expunged arrest or conviction. Well now, I can simply answer "No. You don't have to disclose it to your employer."
5. If a data company has notice of your expungement, they cannot sell the information or maintain on their website. Additionally, if you provide notice to a data company that your arrest or conviction had been expunged and they do not remove the information, you can sue them and collect damages, court costs and attorney's fees. This puts some real teeth into the law and in the age of computerized records gives data companies an incentive to make sure that your arrest or conviction is removed from their records.
As you can see, the new expungement law is much more user friendly and gives people greater rights as a result of getting their convictions expunged. If you plan on getting expungement, it helps to consult with an attorney. I answer legal questions from people every day and if you are unclear on something, don't hesitate to send me an email at [email protected] or call at 504-304-2335.