Expungements in Louisiana

Expungements in Louisiana cmluwisc Mon, 02/06/2023 - 10:35

Sarah Whittington is the Advocacy Director with the Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana (JAC) after serving for three-and-a-half years as a staff attorney focused on reducing the collateral consequences of a criminal record and assisting clients re-entering our communities. Sarah has over seven years of experience as a legal services lawyer including eviction and municipal defense and fighting cessation and denials of public benefits, as well as three years of legislative drafting and campaign implementation experience. As a former 4th and 8th grade English teacher in East Feliciana Parish, Sarah also designs and provides community education for lawyers, students, and impacted people about the laws that affect their lives, as well as listening to their experiences and translating the desire for change into written policy. Since joining JAC, she has lobbied and testified in each legislative session to advocate for increased and improved opportunities for individuals re-entering the community and to prevent regression or repeal of “Justice Reinvestment” initiatives. Throughout the year, Sarah provides research, testimony, and support to several legislative commissions, committees, and task forces focusing on automating expungements, eliminating fees and costs in the criminal legal system, and improving the structure of Louisiana’s judiciary. Working with partners and stakeholders, Sarah also supports community-focused coalitions of impacted individuals with relevant information and coordination of testimony and participation in the legislative session.

Material in this chapter is current through December 15, 2022.

1. Background

1. Background cmluwisc Mon, 02/06/2023 - 10:37

1.1 Importance of Expungement

1.1 Importance of Expungement cmluwisc Mon, 02/06/2023 - 10:38

Louisiana arrests and incarcerates more people per capita than any other place in the world; 680 of every 100,000 residents are currently incarcerated.1  The incarceration rate has been lowered recently, in part due to 2017 legislative reforms known as “Justice Reinvestment.” These reforms updated sentencing calculations to allow more individuals to return to their communities. The strength of Louisiana’s economy and workforce relies, in part, on the ability of all its residents to obtain gainful employment, start new businesses, seek higher education, and pursue professional licensure. However, a criminal record often presents an obstacle to achieving those goals.

Although the record of a conviction may be the most obvious target of expungement, even a mere arrest creates a criminal record, regardless of whether criminal charges are ever filed. Both arrest and conviction records are publicly available and widely used to deny employment, housing, education, and other services to individuals and their families.  In addition to employment and housing denials based on criminal records, individuals may also face licensing denials across a plethora of occupations, restricted voting rights for a period of time, increased insurance rates, denial of federal or private loans for education or disaster assistance, and restrictions on family and parental rights. The risk of exposure to these collateral consequences has increased with the expansion of internet-based search sites and the wider availability of programs that scrub data from law enforcement, clerk, and court websites.

1.2 Role of a Pro Bono Attorney

1.2 Role of a Pro Bono Attorney cmluwisc Mon, 02/06/2023 - 10:40

Expungement work is critical for pro bono attorneys because Louisiana also has the most expensive filing costs in the country; each eligible conviction, as well as some arrests, costs between $550 and $600 to expunge. Because determining eligibility for expungement is often the most challenging aspect of the process and because an individual must pay the filing fees even if the court ultimately denies the expungement, an attorney can provide valuable assistance on a limited basis simply by screening an individual for eligibility and providing the necessary information and advice for the person to complete the process pro se. Assistance is critical because it is estimated that currently less than 6.5% of expungement-eligible individuals complete the process.1  

  • 1J.J. Prescott & Sonja B. Starr, Expungement of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study, 133 Harv. L. Rev. 2460, 2489 (2020).

1.3 Remaining Current with the Law

1.3 Remaining Current with the Law cmluwisc Mon, 02/06/2023 - 10:40

Expungement laws were significantly updated and expanded in 2014 to make a greater number of misdemeanor and felony convictions eligible for expungement. Since 2014 there have been almost annual changes in the law for eligibility, processes, forms, and costs. Therefore, this chapter provides only the general criteria for eligibility. For the most up-to-date information, practitioners should refer directly to the applicable Code of Criminal Procedure articles and/or attend relevant CLEs available annually from the Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana on this topic.1  

1.4 Avenues Beyond Expungement

1.4 Avenues Beyond Expungement cmluwisc Mon, 02/06/2023 - 10:42

This chapter is limited to expungement. If an individual is not eligible for an expungement, there may nevertheless be other avenues of relief available such as resentencing under La. C.Cr.P. art. 930.10, reconsideration of a sentence under La. C.Cr.P. art. 881.1, or an executive or “gold seal” pardon from the governor.

2. Limitations on Use of Criminal Records

2. Limitations on Use of Criminal Records cmluwisc Mon, 02/06/2023 - 10:43

2.1 Employment

2.1 Employment cmluwisc Mon, 02/06/2023 - 10:43

At present, 9 in 10 employers use background checks to screen applicants.1  The Center for American Progress estimates that “our nation’s poverty rate would have dropped 20% between 1980 and 2004 if not for mass incarceration and the subsequent criminal records that haunt people for years after they have paid their debt to society.”2 Criminal records create a catch-22 for many individuals: they cannot find employment due to their criminal records, but because they are unemployed or underemployed, they cannot afford the cost of expungement. 

Louisiana has made some progress toward reducing the impact of criminal records on hiring. In August 2021, La. R.S. 23:291.2 went into effect. This statute prohibits a prospective employer from considering arrest records or records of charges that did not result in a conviction when making hiring decisions. 

In the case of conviction records, the new law also requires an employer to make an individualized assessment of a person’s background before denying employment. The employer must determine if there is a direct and adverse relationship between the criminal record and the specific duties of the job being sought by considering:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct;
  • The time that has elapsed since the offense, conduct, or conviction; and,
  • The nature of the job sought.

These criteria are similar to those suggested by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012.3  

Applicants may also request, in writing, a copy of the background check information used by the employer. If any records are arrest-only or if the records are inaccurate or incomplete for dispute purposes under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, an individual may be able to use that to challenge an adverse decision. Unfortunately, La. R.S. 23:291.2 does not explicitly provide a legal remedy or recourse if an employer improperly denies employment based on consideration of prohibited records. A person may, however, consider bringing an alternative legal argument, such as a tort claim for failure to hire. Remedies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act may also provide for potential damages against either the credit reporting company or the furnisher of the incorrect or inaccurate criminal record information, but do require the unsuccessful applicant to start the process with a dispute against the credit reporting company.

2.2 Licensure

2.2 Licensure aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:06

According to the Institute for Justice, Louisiana is the sixth “most broadly and onerously licensed state,” with 77 of 102 lower-income occupations studied requiring licensure.1  Many licensing boards and organizations have some form of administrative rules or regulations that limit licensing based on criminal records.

In 2022, Louisiana amended La. R.S. 37:33–36 to allow individuals with criminal records to request a “pre-application eligibility determination” at any time prior to applying for a license. This should let individuals know whether a criminal record may eventually disqualify them from licensure before they spend significant time and money on schooling or other training.

At the same time, the legislature also amended La. R.S. 37:2950 to require that a denial of licensure or occupation on the grounds of a criminal conviction be directly related to the employment, occupation, trade, or profession for which the license is sought and that the agency or board consider the following criteria:

  • The nature and seriousness of the offense
  • The nature of the specific duties and responsibilities for which the license, permit, or certificate is required
  • The amount of time that has passed since the conviction
  • Facts relevant to the circumstances of the offense, including any aggravating or mitigating circumstances or social conditions surrounding the commission of the offense
  • Evidence of rehabilitation or treatment undertaken by the person since the conviction

While specific licensing agencies may still refuse a license based on a criminal conviction, many agencies, due to their administrative rules or policies, also rely on a generic and “moral turpitude” standard in their written decisions. Attorneys should evaluate any licensure denials on a case-by-case basis to ensure board or agency compliance and consider requesting rehearing before the board or a judicial appeal of board decisions if evidence would support granting a license to an eligible individual.

3 Legal Effect of Expungement

3 Legal Effect of Expungement aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:08

In Louisiana, “expungement” means that the record has been removed from public view, but the records are not destroyed. Under La. C.Cr.P. art. 973, law enforcement, a “criminal justice agency,” prosecutors, and courts can still see records. The same article also contains a list of state licensing boards and agencies who can see expunged records, so it is in the best interest of applicants to disclose an expunged record if it would be visible to an agency.1  However, when answering a question from a private employer or a licensing agency not listed in Article 973, an individual is entitled to answer “no” on applications with criminal records questions if the arrests or convictions have been expunged.2

Because you have an ethical obligation to explain the effects of an expungement to a client or to an individual that you are advising, it is important to understand why that person wants an expungement. For instance, if a client who is seeking entry to a licensed profession might need to answer the question differently when posed by the licensing board than when posed by an employer.

  • 1La. C.Cr.P. art. 973(B).
  • 2La. C.Cr.P. art. 973(C).

4 Eligibility

4 Eligibility aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:09

4.1 Screen in Light of Current Law

4.1 Screen in Light of Current Law aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:09

One of the most vital roles a pro bono attorney can play in the process of extending the reach of expungement laws to as many individuals as possible is to screen them for eligibility to avoid wasted time, money, and emotional energy pursuing expungements that are not available.

Because the legislature modifies the rules for expungement nearly every year, always check the most current and up-to-date version of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure that you are applying the proper screening requirements. When these laws change, they will often go into effect on August 1 of the year of the session in which the new law was enacted. It may take some time for the amended language to be updated online at the website of the Louisiana legislature (http://legis.la.gov), so you may also need to check legislative updates or reports from local bar associations or other places to determine if any laws could impact your client. JAC will provide critical expungement updates through CLEs or updates on its website or in its newsletter when changes occur. The Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (LACDL) and sponsoring legislators will also push out similar updates.

4.2 Incarceration

4.2 Incarceration aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:10

Anyone currently, physically incarcerated by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DOC) cannot file an expungement for any arrest or offense (even those unrelated to the conviction that resulted in the current incarceration).1  Such individuals will be those serving felony sentences, although they may be serving them in either state or parish facilities. Individuals on probation or parole for a felony offense can file for expungement, but only if they are under supervision in the community.

If you get a request for expungement help from a facility, save yourself some time and figure out if the person is incarcerated on a felony sentence.

  • 1La. C.Cr.P. art. 975.

4.3 Arrests Without Conviction

4.3 Arrests Without Conviction aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:10

Expungement of arrest-only records is controlled by Article 976 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

An arrest can be expunged if any of the following apply:

  • The offense was not prosecuted.
  • The charges were dismissed.
  • Prescription has run.
  • The conviction was overturned on a finding of factual innocence.

​​​​Prescription rules vary by offense.1  While noncapital offenses generally have a prescriptive period of six years or less,2  the period has been extended for certain offenses such as certain sex offenses or when individuals were indicted for an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment. If there is no evidence that the charges were disposed of by the court, expungement may be unavailable if a lengthier prescriptive period has not run.  

If an arrest-only incident is eligible for expungement, there is no required waiting period; the expungement can be filed at any time, even if the person has later convictions. However, if the arrest was for a DWI offense (under La. R.S. 14:98 or a similar parish or municipal ordinance) and the individual completed pretrial diversion, additional time limitations may apply.3 ​​​​​​​ Check the current version of the statutes carefully.

  • 1See La. C.Cr.P. arts. 571, et seq.
  • 2La. C.Cr.P. 572(A).
  • 3La. C.Cr.P. art. 976(B); La. R.S. 15:578.1.

4.4 Misdemeanor Convictions

4.4 Misdemeanor Convictions aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:13

Eligibility for expungement of these records is governed by Article 977 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

In general, expungement of a misdemeanor conviction requires a 5-year waiting period after completion of the misdemeanor sentence and no felony conviction during that 5-year period. However, if the sentence was deferred under La. C.Cr.P. art. 894(B) and successfully set aside, the waiting period does not apply. The fact that subsequent felony convictions may alter eligibility for expungement of a misdemeanor conviction reinforces the importance of having a complete picture of a person’s record.

There are several misdemeanor offenses that are never eligible for an expungement under any circumstance, including domestic abuse battery and stalking.1  Practitioners should be especially careful if the misdemeanor conviction arises from an arrest for a felony sex offense; typically, this happens if an individual pleads guilty to a misdemeanor offense regarding the incident of arrest. In this situation, the individual is only eligible for an “Interim Expungement” under La. C.Cr.P. art. 985.1. The interim expungement will remove the felony arrest record from public view, but the misdemeanor conviction can never be expunged.

  • 1La. C.Cr.P. art. 977(C).

4.5 Felony Convictions

4.5 Felony Convictions aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:13

Eligibility for expungement of the record of a felony conviction is controlled by Article 978 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

In general, an individual is eligible for expungement when the conviction is not for an ineligible offense under paragraph (B) and one of the following apply:

  • The conviction was set aside under La. C.Cr.P art. 893(E) following successful completion of probation for a “deferred” sentence or successful completion of a drug court program.1
  • It has been 10 years since the completion of a sentence, probation, or parole for a felony offense, and the individual has no other convictions (either felony or misdemeanor) during that 10-year period.
  • The individual received a First Offender Pardon (unless the offense was for a crime of violence or certain sex offenses).

In practice, many individuals may not know if they qualify for a First Offender Pardon. These are automatically created and generated by the Department of Probation and Parole upon completion of a person’s sentence. There are some limits on eligibility under La. R.S. 15:572(B). To check eligibility, request a copy of this letter from the person’s file. To do so, contact the District Office that supervised the person on felony probation or parole. If the person was never under supervision, contact the District Office for the jurisdiction of the sentencing court.

All exceptions to felony expungement eligibility are listed in paragraph (B) of Article 978 and have remained fairly consistent, but should be confirmed during the screening process. Ineligible felony offenses currently include:

  • Any crime of violence defined in La. R.S. 14:2(B) unless the conviction falls within the paragraph (E) exceptions (as listed at the time of the application for expungement, not as listed at the time of conviction)
  • Any sex offense or a criminal offense “against a victim who is a minor” as both are defined in R.S. 15:541
  • A conviction for distribution of a controlled dangerous substance under R.S. 40:966(A), 967(A), 968(A), 969(A), or 970(A) unless a First Offender Pardon has been granted
  • Felony domestic abuse battery

Paragraph (E) of Article 978 provides a limited exception to the list of ineligible offenses under Paragraph (B) (i.e., it is an exception to the exception). The following crimes can be expunged if 10 years have elapsed since the completion of the sentence, probation, or parole: aggravated battery, second degree battery, aggravated criminal damage to property, simple robbery, purse snatching, or illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities.

  • 1La. C.Cr.P. art. 893(E)(4). A person may have only two felony set asides in one lifetime. La. C.Cr.P. art. 893(E)(2), (3)(c).

4.6 Juvenile Records

4.6 Juvenile Records aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:14

Juvenile record expungement is controlled by Articles 917 to 926 of the Children’s Code.

Generally, all juvenile records are sealed and cannot be made available except under specific court orders. Because these records are already considered confidential and are sealed, many individuals do not seek to expunge juvenile records. Expungement is available, however, without cost and in almost all cases without a waiting period once the court ceases to supervise the youth. Any practitioner working with youth can and should move to expunge juvenile records when these cases are closed or as soon as eligible.

4.7 Gun Rights Restoration

4.7 Gun Rights Restoration aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:15

Many individuals may be seeking gun rights restoration, which is an unsettled area of law with overlapping and potentially inconsistent federal and state requirements.

A person who can be prosecuted under La. R.S. 14:95.1 as a “felon with a firearm” is legally barred from gun ownership. The Louisiana State Police (LSP) will generally not grant a gun license to such a person. After a cleansing period and/or expungement, however, it may be possible to get a license. Nevertheless, a permit from the state of Louisiana following an expungement does not guarantee that the federal government will recognize that an individual’s firearm rights have been restored. For example, anyone who was arrested on a crime related to domestic violence and pleaded to a lesser charge that included an element of violence (i.e., arrested for domestic abuse battery, but pleaded to simple battery) may be permanently barred from carrying a weapon under current federal law.1

As a result, an individual with a Louisiana permit found carrying a weapon by a sheriff or LSP may face no charges or issues after showing the license, but the same person investigated or stopped by the FBI, ATF, or federal game wardens may still face federal firearm charges. Many advocates encourage individuals with criminal records to get the most stringent license – a conceal carry permit – to ensure as much compliance as possible with federal law

  • 118 U.S.C §§ 921–922.

5 Screening for Eligibility

5 Screening for Eligibility aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:19

5.1 Obtaining a Complete Record

5.1 Obtaining a Complete Record aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:19

When you are screening a client to determine eligibility, it is also very important that you have a complete and accurate picture of the criminal record. Eligibility will depend on several factors:

  • Is the record of an arrest-only incident or a conviction?
  • If there was a conviction, what was the conviction for?
  • What was the sentence?
  • Have there been any later convictions, and if so, for which offenses?

Generally, it is best to organize all records chronologically. Many individuals will come to you with a specific charge in mind that they want expunged because they believe it is holding them back, but without a complete picture of the entire record, you will not know if that record is eligible or when it may become eligible.

In practice, if the person knows that the entirety of their record is within one or two parishes, it is likely easiest, cheapest, and fastest to determine eligibility by requesting court records from the courts where the cases were heard or for an attorney to look up the records if online access is available. A Bill of Information and a Disposition or Sentencing Minutes is sufficient to determine eligibility. Orleans Parish Criminal District Court will provide a more complete “Expungement Packet” that includes arrest information and district attorney screening forms.

If the person is unsure of their records or these records are spread out across many parishes, the only agency that is supposed to hold all fingerprinted records of arrest is the Louisiana State Police (LSP). An LSP background check can be obtained in person at the headquarters in Baton Rouge or through the mail with a return to either you or your client. The mail option will often take 6–8 weeks. Unfortunately, these records are often incomplete and may not include records of arrests or incidents without fingerprints. Practitioners must also keep in mind that a background check from either a parish sheriff or LSP is only good for 60 days. Because a background check will also be required when filing the expungement, you should request a background check for screening purposes only if it is impossible to determine eligibility without it or to confirm completeness of the expungement packet when a person is ready to file. This will save clients multiple background check fees.

5.2 Examples

5.2 Examples aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:21

The combination of arrests, convictions, sentences, and time periods is nearly infinite. A few examples will demonstrate the process of evaluating a client’s record for expungement eligibility.

Example 1: A client brings court records for an arrest on domestic abuse battery and a conviction for the lesser offense of disturbing the peace. Client was sentenced to 6 months incarceration deferred under Article 894 and 2 years probation. The client also has an arrest for misdemeanor possession from 2020 that did not result in conviction.

  • First, regardless of the conviction, the arrest charge is eligible for expungement without any waiting period and should receive a fee waiver because there are no felony convictions on this individual’s record.
  • Second, the conviction may be eligible based on outcome because domestic abuse battery is only ineligible for expungement if it was a conviction; an arrest for domestic abuse battery with a lesser conviction (like this example) is eligible.
  • However, the time that has elapsed since the date of conviction will also be relevant. To take two examples:
    • You are reviewing the records in 2022. The conviction occurred in 2020, and the client satisfactorily completed probation. The conviction may be expungable if the court first grants a Motion to Set Aside because the client had no pending charge when probation ended.
    • You are reviewing the records in 2022. The conviction occurred in 2018, but the client was terminated unsatisfactorily from probation in 2020 because of the pending misdemeanor possession charge. The conviction will not be eligible until 5 years after the probationary sentence completed. You cannot use a Motion to Set Aside to avoid the waiting period because the client was terminated unsatisfactorily; if you can get the court to reconsider the unsatisfactory termination based on the later dismissal of the possession charges, it may be possible to obtain a set aside.

Example 2: Review of a client’s background check shows only 2 arrest incidents: 1) 2014 conviction for misdemeanor theft with a sentence of 2 years of probation; and 2) 2010 conviction for felony aggravated battery with a sentence of 1 year incarceration with credit for time served and 3 years of probation. Assuming review in 2022:

  • The 2014 misdemeanor is eligible for expungement because 5 years have elapsed since the likely completion of the sentence in 2016.
  • The cleansing period for the 2010 felony was interrupted by the 2014 misdemeanor conviction, so the cleansing period for this felony restarted in 2016 and will run until 2026. A First Offender Pardon would not make the 2010 conviction expungable because it was for a crime of violence under La. R.S. 14:2(B).

Example 3: Client’s record shows 4 convictions: 1) 2006 conviction for felony possession of cocaine with a 5-year sentence; 2) 2010 conviction for misdemeanor theft with a sentence of 2 years probation; 3) 2012 conviction for felony theft with a sentence of 2 years probation; and 4) a 2014 conviction for misdemeanor theft with a sentence of 2 years probation.

  • The 2006 conviction for felony possession of cocaine is eligible immediately if the person received a First Offender Pardon; if not, expungement requires 10 years with no convictions (as with the 2012 felony theft conviction discussed below).
  • For the 2010 misdemeanor theft conviction, the 5-year cleansing period was interrupted by the felony conviction in 2012, but not by the misdemeanor conviction in 2014. This record is eligible 5 years after the conclusion of the felony sentence in 2014, so it has likely been eligible since 2019.
  • The 2012 felony theft conviction will not have a First Offender pardon. Assuming that there was no deferred sentence under Article 893,1  the client will require 10 years with no convictions after the latest conviction. Because the supervision for the 2014 misdemeanor likely ended in 2016, the 2012 felony conviction will likely be eligible for expungement in 2026.
  • The 2014 misdemeanor theft conviction requires the 5-year cleansing period after completion of the sentence (likely in 2016). Hence, this conviction has likely been eligible for expungement since 2021.
  • 1In addition, if this record is being reviewed in 2022, it is no longer possible to seek reconsideration of the sentence.

6 Filing

6 Filing aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:23

6.1 Forms

6.1 Forms aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:23

When the expungement laws were updated in 2014, all expungement forms were statutorily codified and are currently available at La. C.Cr.P. arts. 987–997. Clerks are allowed to amend these forms, but they cannot refuse to accept the statutory ones that are available online. Many clerk of court websites will provide these forms as does the website of the Louisiana Clerk of Court Association. Some offices will also provide hard copies in person.

A single expungement includes all charges that result from an arrest. For example, if a person is arrested on 3 charges on a specific date, but the district attorney only brings charges for 1 of the offenses, and the person is arrested on a warrant due to a failure to appear on the charge, but later pleads guilty to a lesser offense in the court, the expungement packet must include the 3 arrest charges (which include the DA’s charge in court), the arrest information and charge for the warrant, and the charge the person ultimately pleaded guilty to. This means that the forms may include more than 1 arrest date, more than 1 arrest and item number, and more than 1 docket number if charges were bifurcated into felony and misdemeanor cases. Review the court records and background check information carefully when completing the forms to ensure completeness because anything not included on the forms will remain unexpunged and visible until corrected.

Specific Forms:

  • La. C.Cr.P. art. 987 - Motion to Set Aside Conviction and Dismiss Prosecution: this form is required if the person pleaded under Articles 893 or 894 and is trying to expunge a record before the 5- or 10-year cleansing period.
  • La. C.Cr.P. art. 989 - Motion for Expungement: you must list all the charges and/or convictions from a single arrest incident and be sure to include as much identifying information (State ID, Arrest Number, Item Number, Arrest Date) as possible to help agencies identify the proper person and record to expunge.
  • La. C.Cr.P. art. 990 - Affidavit of Response: complete the caption and list the District Attorney and Arresting Agency; this form will be completed by the agencies if they have any opposition to the Motion for Expungement.
  • La. C.Cr.P. art. 991 - Order: complete the caption only; this form will be completed by the court if a contradictory hearing is required to address opposition to the Motion for Expungement.
  • La. C.Cr.P. art. 992 - Order of Expungement of Arrest/Conviction: this form is the court ordering the expungement of the record, you must include all the identifying information from the Motion for Expungement on pages 2 and 3 of this Order to be served on all parties listed.
  • La. C.Cr.P. art. 993 - Supplemental Sheet: these forms are required if there are more than 3 arrest charges, 2 misdemeanor convictions, and/or 2 felonies in a person’s record.
    • In practice, if a person was arrested on 57 counts of a certain offense, you could choose to write in “1–57” (or however many apply) on the line available rather than completing a separate entry for all 57 charges, but be careful and confirm that when the judge signs the Order of Expungement, page 2 of the Order clearly copies all the charge numbers (i.e., “1­–57”) plus any others from the Motion.
  • La. C.Cr.P. arts. 994–995 - Motion and Order for Interim Expungement: these forms are for any eligible interim expungement charge.1

If the charges are for municipal or parish ordinance violations, practitioners may need to make note of the change from “R.S.” to the code for the specific violation.

In addition to the statutorily required forms for an expungement, the only other required paperwork that must be submitted with an expungement is a background check (dated within 60 days of filing) from either the parish sheriff or LSP. Either is sufficient to meet the requirements of the law, but a background check from a local police department is not sufficient. It may still be necessary, however, if that is where the most complete and accurate records are kept, and you cannot determine all charges from DA or court paperwork. Some charges will also require a “DA Certification” that verifies that the individual does not have any intervening convictions or pending charges that would impact eligibility. While this is required under La. C.Cr.P. arts. 977(A)(2) and 978(A)(2), not all clerks require it before filing. You will need to check with your local clerk of court and district attorney’s office to determine if this step is needed and what documents or paperwork you need to submit to receive this certification.

You will also need to check with the clerk of court to determine how many copies are required at the time of filing. In some cases, only the original documents are required, and the clerk will return to you a stamped copy of what was filed. In many instances, however, you or the client must take all the necessary copies to the clerk’s office in order to file the expungement. It will be important to check the number of copies required (anywhere from 1 to 5 being most likely). It will also be important for you or the client to keep a copy of what was filed until the expungement is granted to ensure compliance with applicable waiting periods.

6.2 Costs

6.2 Costs aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:25

All costs are controlled by La. C.Cr.P. arts. 983–984. Under La. C.Cr.P. art. 983, the statutory fee of $550 is divided between the following agencies: the Louisiana State Police ($250), the clerk of court (up to $200), the sheriff ($50), and the district attorney ($50). Any agency may choose to charge less than the statutory maximum or not collect the fee at all, but these reductions in fees are extremely rare, and most agencies charge the legal maximum.

Under La. C.Cr.P. art. 984, there is an extra $50 fee to expunge a conviction for Driving While Intoxicated; this is paid to the Office of Motor Vehicles. This $50 is paid a single time, either when the person receives a Set Aside under Article 894 or when the person applies for an expungement if there was no Set Aside. This fee is statutorily capped at a single $50 payment and should never be paid twice. The only time a fee can be charged when filing a Motion to Set Aside is if the conviction was for a DWI offense. In all other cases, filing the Motion to Set Aside is free, and there are no statutorily allowable fees.

6.3 Fee Waivers

6.3 Fee Waivers aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:25

6.3.1 District Attorney Fee Waivers

6.3.1 District Attorney Fee Waivers aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:25

A person is eligible to have the statutory fees waived under La. C.Cr.P. art. 983(F) if they receive a fee waiver from the district attorney’s office. This is a statutory form available at La. C.Cr.P. art. 988. This waiver from the district attorney waives all fees to every agency. A person is eligible for this fee waiver if the charge to be expunged did not result in a conviction, the person did not complete a diversion program, and the person does not have any felony convictions or pending felony charges on their record. This means it is possible for a person to have misdemeanor convictions that must be paid for and also arrest-only incidents that are fee-waiver eligible.

6.3.2 Other Types of Fee Waivers

6.3.2 Other Types of Fee Waivers aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:26

In addition to the district attorney fee waiver, there are other less common routes to a fee waiver. Under La. C.Cr.P. art. 983(I), a person determined factually innocent and entitled to compensation under La. R.S. 15:572.8 does not have to pay an expungement fee, but must file an expungement to seal the record of conviction. Under La. C.Cr.P. art. 983(J), a person who receives an executive or “gold seal” pardon may also expunge their record without paying a fee, but this does not apply to First Offender Pardons. Executive pardons can include a pardon from a city or parish entity with pardon authority. Under La. C.Cr.P art. 983(G) and La. Ch.C. art. 924, juvenile records can be expunged without cost or fee.

Under La. C.Cr.P. art. 983(H), an individual who can prove that the crimes were committed as the result of human trafficking can receive a specific waiver from the district attorney’s office using a form available in La. C.Cr.P. art. 997. The individual bears the burden and must prove by a preponderance of the evidence to the district attorney that the offense was committed in substantial part as the result of being a victim of human trafficking. This certification will also waive any time delays in Articles 977 and 978 and the required fees in Article 983. A single certification from a district attorney’s office can also be used to expunge records in other parishes in Louisiana if the offenses were committed during the time period the DA recognizes that the individual was being trafficked.

6.4 In Forma Pauperis

6.4 In Forma Pauperis aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:26

6.4.1 General Principles

6.4.1 General Principles aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:26

La. C.Cr.P. art. 983(L) provides for the use of the in forma pauperis (IFP) provisions to allow an individual not otherwise eligible for a fee waiver to file an expungement without paying the statutory filing fees up front. This paragraph inserts Articles 5181 to 5188 of the Code of Civil Procedure into the Code of Criminal Procedure, so all procedures, standards, and outcomes from the civil in forma pauperis laws apply in the expungement context. This is the most likely route to avoiding filing fees for pro bono clients.

This provision has been law since 2018, but with very little use to date, practitioners may need to assist clients and provide judicial education in obtaining IFPs before filing expungements. Advocates are strongly encouraged to work with their indigent expungement clients to expand access to courts and expungements through this provision. Knowing the immediate and positive impact increased availability of expungements will have on Louisiana’s economy and families, the legislature intended to provide access to more individuals who are eligible for expungements, and costs should never be a barrier to court access.

Because this manual addresses the procedure for IFP filing in greater detail elsewhere,1  this chapter will focus on special considerations when using IFP to obtain an expungement.

6.4.2 Eligibility

6.4.2 Eligibility aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:27

If your client receives federal benefits or is making less than 125% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, there is a statutory presumption in favor of granting the IFP.1  Additionally, if the person’s expenses are near to or exceed their income, they may also be IFP-eligible.2  Because of the high cost of expungements, a person’s IFP eligibility might also be based on the total number of expungements to which they are entitled. For example, a person may earn sufficient wages to pay all their monthly expenses with a little bit of savings and thus might not qualify for IFP status to expunge one offense, but might be able to qualify for IFP if that person had 6 records to expunge (for a total cost of $3300).

  • 1La. C.C.P. art. 5183(B)(2).
  • 2Benjamin v. Nat’l Super Markets, Inc., 351 So. 2d 138, 142 (La. 1977).

6.4.3 Procedure

6.4.3 Procedure aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:28

IFPs will require notarization and a third-party witness that knows the individual’s financial situation. Be careful when completing, or helping clients complete, these forms as they are sworn statements to the court regarding income and expenses. It is very helpful to include supporting documentation (such as pay stubs and award benefit letters) when filing.

IFPs can be filed and granted off-docket in many cases before the individual files the expungement, but each expungement will require its own IFP. Some courts may allow a duty judge to grant all IFPs, or each section/division may want to consider and grant the IFPs individually. Additionally, judges can do one of the following with their IFPs: 1) grant the IFP; 2) deny the IFP with written reasons; or 3) set the IFP for a hearing for more information. If the IFP is denied or if a hearing is set, be prepared to argue for the person’s eligibility. If granted, and while an expungement is pending, an “opposing” party, the clerk, or the court may traverse an IFP to determine if the client is still eligible for the fee waiver. For expungements, this means that the clerk, the court, LSP, the DA, or the sheriff could challenge the facts contained in an IFP application if a person’s financial situation changes. This likely will not happen during the 60 days an expungement is pending, but it is important to caution an expungement seeker that it may happen as a result of a new job or an increase in income while the expungement is pending.

6.4.4 Avoiding Court Debt

6.4.4 Avoiding Court Debt aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:28

When working with clients pursuing IFP, keep in mind that no one should be required to file their expungement until the IFP is granted because denial of the IFP could generate an eventual court debt that the person cannot afford. According to La. C.Cr.P. art. 983(C), the clerk must collect the filing fee at the time the expungement is filed, therefore it is critical to get the IFP granted prior to filing the expungement motion, unless the person has an alternative fee waiver or plans to pay the filing fees.

It is also critical for practitioners and their clients to ensure that an expungement does not generate a later court debt. Under La. C.C.P. art. 5186, “[i]f judgment is rendered in favor of the indigent party, the party against whom the judgment is rendered shall be condemned to pay all costs due . . . .” Because an expungement is different from civil litigation, practitioners and their clients should ensure that the record states that the Order for Expungement is a judgment in favor of the indigent client for the purposes of waiving all fees associated with the expungement. Costs do not need to be cast on any opposing party, but it should be clear that no agency or office can attempt to collect on any of the $550 after the order is granted.

7 Next Steps Once an Expungement is Filed

7 Next Steps Once an Expungement is Filed aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:29

Once an expungement is filed, it is important that practitioners or pro se applicants keep track of the case to ensure that it is timely handled by the court. While expungements do not require a contradictory hearing and may be signed off docket if no agency opposes the expungement, keeping track of the dates will ensure it is timely granted and that you or your client receives notice of the expungement.

Under La. C.Cr.P. art. 980(B)–(C), a court can only accept an opposition to a Motion for Expungement within 60 days of the date of service, but may grant a 30-day extension. This means that if the court does not affirmatively grant an extension, you or your client can expect that an expungement should be granted approximately 60 days from service. Because expungements are closed matters to the court, they may not appear as a regularly scheduled or open matter for the court to address. In practice, it may be helpful to ask the division minute clerk to set the matter on the docket 60 days (or as close as possible) from service to ensure that the matter is not left unresolved.

If an agency opposes the expungement on legal grounds, a contradictory hearing must be set. The court will consider the reasons for the opposition to determine if the individual is legally eligible for their expungement. If eligible, the order will be signed at the hearing, but if the court finds the person is ineligible, the expungement may be denied, and the person forfeits all filing fees they may have paid. This is why the initial screening and a complete picture of a person’s record are critical for determining eligibility and providing accurate information and advice on which expungements should or should not be filed. A denial of an expungement could also trigger a court debt for individuals who filed IFP, as judgment will have been rendered against them.

Regardless of when/how the expungement is granted, you will want to be sure that you receive a certified copy of the expungement order for your files and for your client to keep in a waterproof, fireproof, safe place as most courts will never provide future copies. You should also expect a letter from LSP approximately 2 months after the order is granted with a form called a “Certificate of Compliance,” which affirms that LSP has expunged the record from public view and informed the FBI of the expungement. This should also be kept in a waterproof, fireproof, safe place, but can be reissued for a cost if lost. Because there is a possibility that agencies may fail to remove expunged arrests or convictions, keeping these records will enable you or your client to have the expunged matters removed.

8 Challenging Incomplete or Inaccurate Information

8 Challenging Incomplete or Inaccurate Information aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:30

8.1 Employment and Licensure

8.1 Employment and Licensure aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:30

Louisiana provides some new, limited protections for individuals with criminal records who are seeking jobs or licensure.1  If an employer refuses to hire on the basis of a background check, an individual will need to request the background check in writing from the prospective employer. If a person is seeking licensure, there may be opportunities to challenge license denials if administrative rules or policies do not explicitly bar licensure based on a criminal conviction or if it is arguable that the criminal record is not directly related to employment or licensure. Such denials will need to be reviewed by practitioners on a case-by-case basis to determine if a violation occurred and whether an appropriate remedy exists

8.2 Criminal Records

8.2 Criminal Records aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:30

Individuals may also seek to correct or challenge incomplete or inaccurate information in their criminal records. Under La. R.S. 15:588, a person can request that the Louisiana State Police update a record which is incomplete. LSP acknowledges that approximately 80% of their records are incomplete or without final disposition, which can cause confusion if these records have been reported to frequently used commercial background check companies.

To update records with LSP, the person must first complete the “Right to Review” process by requesting a background check from LSP. Once missing dispositions are found in the record, the person must contact the district attorney and/or the clerk of court for the parish where the charges were and submit a certified copy of the disposition and other certified paperwork that shows the following information: 1) matching date of booking with LSP records; 2) arrest charge(s) matching LSP records; 3) clear indication of the disposal of the arrest charge (i.e., pleaded to another charge, amended, etc.); and 4) complete disposition for the charge of conviction. Original, certified copies can be hand delivered or mailed to LSP Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information for processing to update the record. Additionally, all certified materials may be submitted by fax or email directly from the agencies responsible for the disposition (district attorney or clerk of court). There is no processing fee to LSP at this time, but there will be fees for requesting and receiving certified copies of these records in many parishes.

8.3 Commercial Background Checks

8.3 Commercial Background Checks aetrahan Mon, 02/06/2023 - 14:31

If incomplete, inaccurate, or expunged records appear on a commercial background check, a person is required to dispute the record and request that it be corrected directly with the company that generated the report. This is controlled by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.1  The onus is on the individual to first challenge or dispute the record with the consumer reporting agency to have the information removed or corrected.

If the information is not timely corrected, an individual may have recourse for damages against the reporting agency. If this incomplete or inaccurate information was reported to a prospective employer and the individual believes the erroneous information was used in denying employment, they must contact the employer, but there are currently no protections or requirements that an employer reconsider a person based on the corrected information. If working with an expungement client, it may be beneficial to proactively check the client’s background after receiving the expungement to ensure the record has been properly removed. This is particularly useful if the client knows which background check company the employer will use (e.g., if the client is trying to drive for Uber, run a Chekr report to ensure accuracy before applying).

  • 115 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq.