How to Get a Clean Record

October 31, 2015 | Category: Articles

Getting a clean record may not be as difficult as you might think.  The recent changes to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, Articles 971 through 995, now create a procedural right to clean your record of non-violent, non-sexual criminal convictions in Louisiana.

The Louisiana Expungement Process

First step: Get the criminal records or know your criminal history.

It is vitally important that you know your correct criminal history, including when and where you were arrested, by whom, and what for.  It is equally important to verify that the arrests correspond with a specific conviction, so you must also determine exactly when, where, and how your charges were disposed of.  If your application for expungement does not exactly match the criminal record on file with the arresting agency and the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information, they will not have to expunge your record, even if the judge grants the expungement.

The Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information has a process that allows individuals the right to review their records.  There is a $26 dollar fee, and the individual must present his fingerprints to the State Police to obtain the information.

Right to Review Authorization Form - to be used when requesting a Right to Review pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statute 15:588 Right of Individual Access.

Right to Review Disclosure Form - to be used in conjunction with the Right to Review Authorization form.

Right to Review Attorney Authorization - to be used when applicant has authorized a personal representative or an attorney to request the Right to Review.


Second Step:  Determine whether your Louisiana criminal history qualifies for an expungement.

Most Louisiana felonies and misdemeanors can qualify for expungement, if a sufficient period of time has passed since the completion of sentence.  That waiting period is generally 10 years for felonies and 5 years for misdemeanors.  There are some exceptions to these rules.

In addition, there are crimes listed in LSA-R.S. 14:2 and LSA-R.S. 15:541 (crimes of violence and sex crimes) that are not eligible for expungement.  There are exceptions to this rule, as well.

Third Step: Evaluate which convictions to expunge

Decide whether to use your procedural right to expunge a specific crime using your best discretion and weighing the fact that an expungement may only be requested once every 15 years.  You should ask yourself if your objectives will actually be met by expunging the conviction—in other words, ask yourself why you are trying to clean your Louisiana criminal record of a specific charge,  and then ask yourself whether you are sure that an expungement will actually accomplish this goal.  Remember that this may be your one shot at getting an expungement, and you do not want to waste it unnecessarily.  IMPORTANT:  It is extremely difficult—if not impossible—for an attorney to “undo” the consequences of the decisions you make at this stage, if you are unsuccessful in your motion and later seek counsel.

Fourth Step:  Compute the court costs

The court costs and processing fees must be paid at the time you file the expungement. They are non-refundable, even if you are unsuccessful in getting your Louisiana criminal record cleaned.  Those fees are paid to several agencies who hold your records.  Those fees range between $550 and $760, per arrest date, and must be paid with money orders attached to the pleading.  There are some very limited circumstance in which some or all of the court costs can be waived (a complete dismissal or actual “not guilty” verdict on all charges arising from an arrest).  If you believe that you qualify for a waiver then you will need to obtain the prosecutors signature on the waver application attached to the petition for expungement before you file the expungement paperwork.  The clerk of court will not accept a motion for expungement without all of the fees pre-paid unless you have attached the appropriate waiver signed by the prosecutor.

Fifth Step: Use the Uniform Rules and Forms for Louisiana Expungement

The Louisiana Expungement Law contains all of the required forms and rules.  All Louisiana expungement applications must now be made on those basic forms.  Supplemental motions may be added to the basic forms.  The Louisiana Clerks of Court Association provides all of the basic forms on its website.  You may also find that information on the clerk of court website for the judicial district in which you are seeking to file the Louisiana expungement.  There will likely also be local rules that apply in that district that will be published on the local website.

Sixth Step: File a the motion to expunge and any ancillary motions required

Once all of your documents are complete, you have obtained and attached the required certified copies of the various court records required, you have selected and prepared the correct orders and responses for the various parties to use in their responses, and you have attached separate money orders in the correct amounts for the various fees, you may file the expungement motion in the correct district.  The clerk of court will then accept the filing, pay all of the agencies their fees, and serve the appropriate parties with your request for expungement.  IMPORTANT: filing the motion to expunge does not clean your Louisiana criminal record.  It only begins the legal process.  After the clerk accepts the filing, it will be sent to a judge who will set delays for the other parties to answer, and the whole package will be served on the district attorney, the arresting agencies, and the Louisiana State Police.  You must wait on their responses to determine how to proceed next.

Seventh Step: Attend the contradictory hearing to argue why the court should clean your Louisiana record

Any of the agencies given notice of your attempt to expunge your record will have sixty days to object to you request.  If none object, then the court will usually grant your request without a hearing.  Some jurisdictions will require you to request the expungement order without hearing after the sixty days have passed, some will do it automatically without your request.  If any agency does object, then you will have to ask for a contradictory hearing in front of a judge in which you will be permitted to argue why your expungement request fits into the statutory scheme set forth in Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, Articles 971 through 995, why the expungement should be granted, and why the objecting agencies’ responses are wrong. 

If the judge agrees with you, she will sign an order granting the expungement of your criminal record; if she does not agree, then she will issue an order denying the request.  Once the order is signed, it will be forwarded by the clerk to the various agencies ordering them to clean your Louisiana criminal record by removing from public access that expunged information.

Any agency that gets an order to expunge information that is inconsistent with your record may ignore the order.  That is why it is so important to get the correct information about what you were arrested for, when you were arrested and exactly how the charges were disposed of.

Eighth Step: Send the expungement clearance documents to the reporting agencies

At some point, if all of the information matches, and the court has ordered your expungement of criminal records, the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information will send you a clearance letter indicating that the records have been removed.  You may wish to send that to the various reporting agencies, if you are aware of any that have been reporting your arrest to employers or other private individuals.  The Louisiana expungement law provides a specific procedure for doing so, and it also allows you to penalize any company that reports your criminal history after it has been expunged—but only if you have followed the notice procedure in the statute.  

Ninth Step: Enjoy the freedom that a clean criminal record can bring to you and your family

If all goes well, and the expungement of your Louisiana criminal record is granted, processed, and disseminated, you will have cleaned your record and can lawfully deny to employers that you were ever arrested or convicted for the expunged offenses.  The Louisiana Expungement Law has extensive additional restrictions (and caveats) to the use and publication of that confidential information.  You should make yourself familiar with those provisions of law to understand the extent of the protections afforded you once you have cleaned your record by expungement.