Expungements: What you might want to know

This information is not a substitute for legal advice. While an attorney is not needed to obtain an expungement, the help of an attorney or someone who has experience guiding others through the process is recommended.  

The moment an individual is arrested by the police and taken into custody, that individual has a criminal history, regardless whether the individual is charged with a crime.  The consequences of a criminal arrest or conviction, known as collateral consequences, can be severe, unexpected, and long lasting. Even after an acquittal or the completion of any sentence imposed, the following can be affected:

An expungement is removal of a person’s history of criminal arrest from the public record. The process can be complicated and varies in every court. Unfortunately, there is no uniformity and transparency in the process.  Obtaining an expungement can help to reduce the effect of collateral consequences.​​

As an individual navigates the system of expungements, there are some things that an expungement will not do:​​

What is an Expungement?

“Expungement” means removal of a record from public access but does not mean destruction of the record. An expunged record is confidential, but remains available for use by law enforcement agencies, criminal justice agencies, and other state agencies as stated under Louisiana law.

Am I eligible to have my record expunged?
Some records may be eligible for expungement.  Typically, violent crimes and some drug offenses are ineligible for expungement.  Additionally, a record may be expunged five (5) years after adjudication and only once every five (5) years.  For more information on your specific record, contact an attorney who can examine your record and determine your eligibility.

If my arrest lead to a conviction am I still eligible?
No, except where:

Can Federal arrest records be expunged?

An arrest for simple drug possession when under 21 years old may be expunged.  Other arrests on Federal charges are not possible to expunge, unless the case ended with an acquittal or exoneration.

Can I have my juvenile arrest records expunged?
Yes, if:

I received a pardon does that automatically expunge my record?
No. There are two kinds of pardons both of which restore certain rights. An automatic pardon is given to first time offenders in Louisiana ( some crimes are excluded from eligibility).  An automatic pardon does not prevent the State from using your record against you in the future. A full govenor’s pardon prevents your records from being used against you at a later time for subsequent convictions.

 

How long do I have to wait to apply for an expungement if I was never prosecuted?
Applications may be filed immediately after the final disposition of the case where there was on acquittal, dismissal or motion to quash. The time limit varies depending on the alleged crime. 

If the time limit for prosecution has run out and the District Attorney did not prosecute, then an application for expungement may be possible. Generally, the DA has a specific amount of time after the date of the offense within which he must institute charges.  They are as follows:

If I am eligible for an expungement, how long do I have to wait after my sentencing?

Generally, an individual must wait five (5) years after completion of state supervision before being eligible for an expungement. 

How do I apply for an expungement?
Each court has different procedures for handling expungements. The type of crime and the disposition may dictate whether a lawyer is needed. Those who were arrested on felony charges will likely need to have a contradictory hearing. This is where the District Attorney will have an opportunity to oppose the request for an expungement.

 

How much does an expungment cost?
The cost varies in each parish. In Orleans Parish it will cost $450.  Up to $200 may be waived upon request and provided an application meets requirements by the Court and the District Attorney’s Office.  The fee of $250 for the State Police cannot be waived.

How long does the whole process take?
It may take up to one year for the entire process to be completed.

Once my records is expunged has it been removed from all potential viewers for ever?
No, some government agencies may still able to view an arrest record even after it has been expunged.

If I apply for a job after my record is expunged how do I answer questions about my record on a job application?
There is no clear answer under the law.

Can I be denied employment because of my criminal record?
Private employers can deny you unemployment for any reason. However, public employers and licensing authorizes should only deny you employment if your arrest/conviction is reasonably related to the job for which an individual applied.  An application for employment that was wrongfully denied may be reviewed by an attorney.