Getting an expungement in Louisiana can change your life. Why? Because when you’re trying to get that all-important new job, one mistake on your record may be holding you back. When potential employers look you up, they often perform a background check. Some incident, no matter how minor, from your past may be showing up, making you look bad, and forcing you to have to try and explain it when you’re trying to get a new job. An expungement can help you solve this problem by clearing your record.
While each person’s case is unique and you should contact an expungement attorney to get specific advice about your case, here are some basic things about getting an expungement in Louisiana that might be helpful to know.
- Am I Eligible to Get an Expungement in Louisiana?
Lawyers like to give this answer but most people hate to hear it-“it depends.”
So let me try to do a little better than just “it depends.” Mainly, whether you’re eligible for an expungement will depend on the following:
- what you were arrested for/pleaded guilty to/were convicted of;
- the time between this offense and any others;
- whether you were sentenced (if pleaded guilty or convicted) under Articles 894 or 893; and
- how much time has passed between your sentence and your expungement.
Because there are many different factors to being eligible for an expungement in Louisiana that require knowledge of the law, I strongly recommend consulting with an expungement attorney before proceeding with your expungement.
Here is what I mean. You may be eligible for an immediate expungement if:
- You were arrested, but the arrest did not result in a conviction or guilty plea.
- You received a deferred sentence under Article 894 for a misdemeanor conviction or guilty plea, and have successfully finished all of the requirements of your sentence.
- You received a deferred sentence under Article 893 for a felony conviction or guilty plea, and have successfully finished all of the requirements of your sentence.
- You received a First Offender Pardon letter.
Waiting Periods for Misdemeanor and Felony Convictions
However, things can get complicated quickly. For example, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor, but you did not receive a deferred sentence under Article 894, then you will need to wait 5 years from the date that you finish the requirements of your sentence to file a motion to expunge. La. C.Cr.P. art. 977. Generally, you also need to wait 5 years between expunging each misdemeanor conviction that was not deferred under Article 894. Id. However, you need to wait 10 years between expunging each arrest and conviction of a misdemeanor offense of driving while intoxicated. Id.
Things get even more complicated when it comes to felonies. For example, if you were convicted of a felony, and you did not receive a deferred sentence under Article 893, then you will need to wait 10 years from the date that you finish the requirements of your sentence to file a motion to expunge. La. C.Cr.P. art. 978. Generally, you also need to wait 15 years between expunging each felony conviction that was not deferred under Article 893. Id.
Certain Convictions Not Eligible for Expungement
And if you were convicted of or pleaded guilty to one of the following offenses, then it is unlikely (though there are some exceptions) that you are eligible for an expungement:
- Domestic abuse battery
- A sex offense as defined in R.S. 15:541
- A crime of violence as enumerated in R.S. 14:2(B)
- Distribution of a controlled dangerous substance
- A conviction for a violation of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law for which you could have received a sentence of 5 years or more
- What Effect Will Getting an Expungement Have on Getting a Job?
A previous arrest or conviction can have tremendous, life-long consequences on a person’s ability to get a job or maintain their constitutional rights. It is often the main reason people want to get an expungement in the first place. You’ve moved on in your life, only to have some past incident pop up when applying for a new job.
The good news is that once you get an expungement in Louisiana, you are legally entitled to answer “No” when asked if you have any previous arrests or convictions. (This only applies to the arrests and/or convictions that you actually had expunged.)
There are a couple of important things to know about the limitations of an expungement. The first is that law enforcement never “forgets” about your previous arrest or conviction even when they destroy or eliminate records pursuant to an expungement order. They simply remove that information from public view. But internally, they still have a record of it.
This has several impacts. First, if you’re applying for any type of government job for which the agency or department you’re applying to likely can get access or request from law enforcement records of your expunged arrest/guilty plea/conviction, then that government agency or department can find out about your arrest or conviction regardless of expungement. The same goes for when you’re applying for most types of Louisiana professional licenses, such as for lawyers, doctors, nurses, and accountants.
Second, if you’re ever arrested again for anything else, that previously expunged offense can be used against you in various ways. This includes an enhanced sentence under the habitual offender law.
- Do I Need an Expungement for an Arrest that Did Not Result in a Conviction?
In my experience, yes. This is because most background checks in Louisiana do not show what happened with the charges for which you were arrested. For example, let’s say you were arrested for theft. After your arrest, you went to court, and the case was dismissed right away.
In all likelihood, a background check will still show that you were arrested for theft. The background check does not show that the charge was dismissed. This means that an arrest looks the same as a conviction on a background check. Even though you were never convicted of theft, you may find yourself having to explain the theft charge to future employers.
- How Long Does an Expungement in Louisiana Take?
There is no simple answer to this question despite what many have said about it. Every Louisiana expungement is different, and therefore the amount of time it will take complete each expungement will vary. Nevertheless, a typical expungement, depending on your parish, will take approximately six (6) months to fully complete. This estimated time period covers the time you turn in your Louisiana expungement paperwork to the time you receive a letter from the Louisiana State Police verifying that your information is sealed.
Again, there are many exceptions to this general rule, so please keep that in mind when you’re thinking about getting an expungement.
- How Do I Get Started on My Expungement?
The first thing you need to decide is whether to hire an expungement attorney to handle your expungement in Louisiana. An expungement is supposed to be a straightforward matter that a non-attorney can handle. But, as we mentioned above, that is, in our experience, rarely actually the case.
In addition to the required legal research and legal knowledge, the filing fee for a Louisiana expungement is $550. This fee is not refundable even if you are not eligible for an expungement. So, it may end up costing you even more if your attempt to do it on your own does not succeed.
After deciding on whether to get an attorney, you will need your case number and basic case information. This will be needed to fill out the standard expungement paperwork that most courts, including Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, require. Some courts have an expungement packet of paperwork available that you can get by going to the Clerk’s Office.
In addition to the expungement packet, your expungement will require a background check, printout of the docket report, and money orders, or a signed fee waiver from the District Attorney. (Individuals whose arrests did not result in a conviction and did not complete diversion are eligible for a fee waiver.) You may also be required to file a motion to set aside conviction before you file your motion to expunge.
The District Attorney’s Office, the arresting agency, your local Sheriff’s Office, and the Louisiana State Police will then have sixty (60) days to object to the motion to expunge. If there are objections, you will have to argue against the objections, and demonstrate that you are in fact eligible for an expungement. If there are no objections or if the court rules in your favor, the court will then enter an order of expungement.
However, you are not done. You must ensure that the order is actually served and carried out by each government department or agency that has records of your arrest or conviction. Unless each agency processes the order of expungement, some records may still appear in a public records search. This is not always an easy or straightforward process.
As we mentioned, each case is different and the above is not meant to be specific legal advice for your particular situation. If you have additional questions or need help with an expungement, you can contact us at our office at the information listed below.
*We handle expungements throughout Louisiana, including but not limited to, the following parishes, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, Baton Rouge (East and West), Lafayette, Shreveport (Caddo), and more.
1700 Josephine Street, New Orleans, La 70113. (504)577-2500. You can also click on the picture below to fill out our contact form.