What is Expungement?
Expungement deletes your criminal record and restores you to the status you had before the offense. The state removes the record from all official sources, but it does not destroy the record. Louisiana keeps a confidential file of expunged records that only judges, law enforcement, and some state licensing agencies may see. Employers, landlords, and banks will not see an expunged record.
Who is Eligible for Expungement?
In general, you are eligible to have a record expunged if the charges were dismissed, you were found not guilty, or you were convicted of a nonviolent misdemeanor or felony. If you are eligible for expungement under Louisiana law, it is mandatory that the court must grant it.
If you want to expunge a conviction, the offense that you were convicted of cannot be any of the following:
- A violent crime;
- A sex crime;
- Distribution of controlled dangerous substances;
- Misdemeanor domestic abuse battery;
- Misdemeanor stalking; or
- A crime against a minor.
And all of the following must be true:
- You have no other convictions, other than traffic citations;
- You do not have any charges pending against you;
- You have paid all fines and restitution; and
- You have waited the appropriate time period after you completed your sentence including any type of supervision to apply for expungement.
If you are uncertain whether you are eligible for expungement, it may be smart to consult an attorney.
What Effect Does Expungement Have?
Once a Louisiana court grants an expungement, the court orders all state agencies to remove (not destroy) their records. Your conviction, dismissal, or acquittal is erased. In most cases, you can legally deny being arrested or convicted.
State licensing boards for healthcare, financial positions, social work, childcare, law, and other jobs can still see expunged records. Louisiana law requires them to keep the records confidential. Law enforcement agencies must submit written requests to see expunged records. Other agencies or employers can see expunged records only by showing "good cause" and getting a court order.
If you apply for a state issued professional license, a law enforcement job, or some school jobs, or you apply for a firearm permit or a concealed-carry permit, you must disclose your record and the expungement.
When Can I Apply for Expungement?
You can apply for expungement of a conviction only after you have completed your sentence. You must wait several years from whatever date is the most recent such as the date of conviction, completion of sentence, or completion of probation or parole.
If your conviction is for a misdemeanor, you must wait five years. You may not have any felony convictions during those five years and no pending felony charges. You can expunge one misdemeanor conviction every 15 years and one DUI conviction every 10 years.
If your conviction is for a felony, you must wait 10 years. You may not have other convictions or pending charges. You can usually expunge one felony conviction every 15 years.
You may file for expungement immediately if you were arrested but not prosecuted such as the charges were formally dismissed, a motion to quash was granted, or you were acquitted.
If the prosecutor did not act, the time limit to bring prosecution must run out before you can file for expungement. For felonies punishable by imprisonment "at hard labor," you must wait six years. For all other felonies, you must wait four years. For misdemeanors punishable by fine or imprisonment, you must wait two years. For misdemeanors punishable only by fines such as traffic infractions, you must wait six months to file for expungement.
How Do I Apply for Expungement?
Here are the six steps to apply for expungement:
- Get the correct forms. To access the forms that all Louisiana courts use, visit the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association website here: Expungement Forms Index. You can also find forms on the Louisiana State Bar Association's Legal Education and Assistance Program (LEAP) website here: Law Library of Louisiana. The Justice and Accountability Center (JAC) also has forms that courts use in different regions of Louisiana. To access the forms, visit the Justice and Accountability Center for Louisiana's website here: Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana. Click on "How-to Guides and Forms" for links.
- Complete the required forms and collect the necessary documents. Some courts require additional forms and certified copies of records to complete the expungement applications. Check with your parish court clerk.
- File your petition for expungement with the court clerk. Include all the required documents and forms including your criminal record. You must get a copy of your criminal record from the state of Louisiana within 30 days of filing your expungement petition.
- Pay the $550 fee. The amount covers fees paid to the Louisiana State Police's (LSP) Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information, the court, the parish DA, and the parish sheriff. Certain situations may require additional fees, bringing the total cost to about $700. The fees are not refundable, even if you do not receive an expungement. The fees generally cannot be waived, except if all of the following are true:
- You have no other felony convictions anywhere in the U.S.;
- You have no pending felony charges;
- Your offense ended in an acquittal, a successful motion to quash, a dismissal, or the prosecutor's refusal to pursue the case, and the time limit for prosecution has expired.
If you qualify for this fee waiver, you must submit the "Certification for Fee Waiver" form to the parish DA. The DA must consent to the waiver. Submit the form with the DA's signature when you file your petition for expungement. To access the Certification for Fee Waiver form, visit the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association website here: Expungement Forms Index. The form is number four.
- Wait about 60 days after you file for any response. Since expungement is mandatory if you qualify, you may not get a hearing. In that case, you will wait 30 to 60 more days to receive your expungement "Certificate of Compliance" from the LSP. This means the LSP have complied with a court order and removed your record. If someone objects to your eligibility such as the DA or a victim, you will have a court hearing. It will take an additional 30 days to get the hearing.
- Notify any private background check companies about your expungement. Louisiana law requires it. You must send each company a certified copy of the expungement order by certified mail. Once a background check company receives this notice of expungement, the law prohibits it from giving out the expunged record.
More Information About Expungement
To access the "How to Handle Your Expungement" guide, visit the Justice and Accountability Center (JAC) for Louisiana's website here: How to Handle Your Expungement. The JAC also offers an expungement app called "Clean Jacket." The app is helpful in determining your eligibility for expungement. To download the app for free, visit Google Play, iTunes, or the JAC website here: JAC Newsletter.
- Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana
The Papillon Foundation - Louisiana Criminal Record Resources
- Collateral Consequences Resource Center
- Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana
- Law Library of Louisiana