Louisiana Legislators Consider Waiving Expungement Fees for Victims of Identity Theft Who Need to Expunge Erroneous Convictions Records

March 19, 2016 | Category: News

The Louisiana House of Representatives Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice is set to hold hearings on a new bill that would allow people who have committed no crime, but whose names have fraudulently been used by convicted criminals during booking, to expunge their records of the erroneous information without paying the filing fees—which can range from $550.00 to thousands of dollars, depending on the number of  dates the identity thief has been arrested under someone else’s name. 

HB 194 by Representative Edward C. “Ted” James of Baton Rouge addresses this little-known, but technically challenging, problem.  Apparently, there is no device under current law that allows a court to order the deletion of an erroneous criminal record that results from someone impersonating another person and being arrested or convicted under that innocent person’s name.   It seems that the only remedy that the innocent person has to clear his record is expungement of the erroneous arrest or conviction record.

Obviously, waiving the fees for this type of expungement—when a criminal has used someone else’s name to be arrested under, and the arresting law enforcement agency has entered that information into its databases—is the least that the state can to do help the innocent victim. 

The bill does not address the underlying problem that the innocent victim will still have a record--albeit expunged--that resides in confidential state databases, so in those limited cases where an innocent victim is applying for a state license or a teaching or child supervisory job and the expungement statute allows the regulatory agencies to access that confidential database, the erroneous arrest record will still be found, and, presumably, the innocent victim will still need to provide some explanation or proof that the record is the result of identity theft.  

The proposal would modify Article 983 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure to waive filing costs  (but not to provide attorney fees)  if “the applicant was determined to be a victim of a violation of R.S. 14:67.3 (unauthorized use of ‘access card’), a violation of R.S. 14:67.16 (identity theft), a violation of R.S. 14:70.4 (access device fraud), or a violation of any other crime which involves the unlawful use of the identity or personal information of the applicant.”  It does not define how the applicant is "determined to be a victim of the crimes" or who make that determination. The rest of the present law would remain unchanged.

The Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice will hear arguments on the bill on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at 9:30 AM in the House committee rooms at the state capitol in Baton Rouge.  If you are interested in commenting on this proposed law, more detailed information is available in the Citizens' Guide to House Committee Meetings which provides details about how to contact your specific legislators and how to appear in support (or opposition) of any bill being debated by House committees.

The Louisiana Expungement Assistance & Advocacy Center supports a favorable recommendation of the bill from committee to the whole House and supports final passage of the bill into law by the House and Senate.