Criminal Record Expungements in Louisiana

Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (New Orleans office) LSC Funded


I have a criminal record.  I've been told I can get it expunged.  What is that and how can it help?

"Expungement" is a court order to remove an arrest or conviction record from public view. Sometimes, a record can be destroyed. When a record is expunged, the public (including employers) should not be able to find out about it. Law enforcement officials and some agencies may still be able to find out about your record. A criminal record may keep you from getting schooling, housing, a job, a license, or a permit you need for a job. Expungement can help you get the shelter, education or job you need to support yourself and your family.

Can Louisiana ARREST records be expunged?

Usually, but not always. Arrests which do not lead to a conviction usually can be expunged. The general rules for adult arrests at Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 44, Section 9. Most libraries have these laws. An expungement does not remove a state arrest from federal records. The laws of other states may be different. If you are arrested by a federal agency, such as the FBI or the ATF, the rules are different. These arrests usually cannot be expunged.

What arrest records can be expunged in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, ARREST records for most local ordinance violations, state misdemeanors and felonies which do not lead to a conviction may be expunged. In Louisiana Revised Statute 44:9, it says there can be no expungements for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This has been declared unconstitutional. The rules are different for misdemeanors (which includes local ordinance violations) and felonies.

When can misdemeanor arrest records be expunged in Louisiana?

A "misdemeanor" is any crime other than a felony. A "felony" is a crime that can have a sentence of hard labor or death. A misdemeanor arrest record generally can be expunged if there was no conviction and either (1) the time limit for beginning prosecution of the offense has run out, or (2) a prosecution was begun, but the case was ended by dismissal, acquittal or motion to quash.

What about felony arrest records?

In Louisiana, state felony arrest records may be expunged if there was no conviction and (1) prosecution was begun and the case has been ended by acquittal, dismissal or a motion to quash and the record of arrest and prosecution for the offense has no substantial value as a prior act for any future prosecution, OR (2) the time limit for prosecution of the offense has run out and no prosecution was begun.

What about FEDERAL arrest records - can they be cxpunged?

Federal law doesn't allow it except for simple drug possession by a person under 21 years old. This means that you usually will not be able to expunge a federal arrest record even if you were innocent and acquitted. If you were arrested for violation of an unconstitutional statute or without any probable cause whatsoever, a federal court may expunge an arrest.

I have juvenile criminal records.  Can they be expunged?

Yes, but the rules are different from those for adults. The rules for juvenile records are found at Articles 917 to 922 of the Louisiana Children's Code. These are important points from the rules:

1. You must be 17 years or older before you can even apply for an expungement of a juvenile record.

2. Juvenile arrests may be expunged if they did not result in an "adjudication" (i.e., conviction by guilty plea or trial).

3. Misdemeanor adjudication records may be expunged if it has been more than 2 years since you satisfied the most recent judgment against you.

4. Adjudication for certain felonies (those other than murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, armed robbery and sex crimes) might be expungeable if more than 5 years have passed since satisfaction of your last judgment.

Can adult CONVICTION records be expunged in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, adult arrest and conviction records for an arrest that resulted in a conviction usually can not be expunged. A "conviction" exists if you pled guilty or were found guilty. A "no contest" plea is a "conviction." There are a few exceptions. You may be able to get a conviction expunged if:

1. You were specifically placed on probation under Article 893 or 894 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, successfully satisfied your probation and had the sentence vacated.

2. You had a federal conviction for simple drug possession and you were under 21 years old at the time.

Does a PARDON expunge adult conviction records?

No. A pardon will not expunge your criminal records. Pardons do restore certain rights and benefits. In Louisiana, all first offenders are automatically pardoned. However, an "automatic pardon" does not restore all rights. A full Governor's pardon (different from an automatic first offender pardon) may be required to make you eligible for some kinds of jobs and business permits (such as liquor and real estate licenses). An automatic pardon does not keep the government from using your conviction to increase the sentence for a later offense.

WHEN can I apply for an expungement?

Immediately if a prosecuted case was finally disposed of by dismissal, acquittal or motion to quash.

After the time limit for prosecution has run out, if no prosecution took place. The time limits for prosecution depend on the punishment for the particular crime:

No limit: Crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment

10 years: Certain sex offenses against children (computed from date of victim's 17th birthday)

6 years: Felonies necessarily punishable by imprisonment at hard labor

4 years: Felonies not necessarily punishable by imprisonment at hard labor

2 years: Misdemeanors punishable by fine or imprisonment

6 months: Misdemeanors punishable by fine

HOW do I apply for an expungement?

Some courts have form motions for expungement and you fill in the blanks. Courts do expungements different ways. Some courts require fees and some do not. There's no uniform state law on costs or how to do it.

For most misdemeanors, file a motion with the court in which the violation was prosecuted or to the district court located in the parish of the arrest if there was no prosecution.

Expungements of felonies (and battery on a police officer or school teacher or aggravated assault) are done by motion to the district court for the parish in which you were arrested. The motion must ask for a hearing with the district attorney and the arresting law enforcement agency. You must serve a motion and order for a hearing on the district attorney and the arresting agency. Consider getting a lawyer since some district attorneys will oppose these expungements.

How do I answer JOB APPLICATION questions about expunged arrest records?

This is a hard question. The best answer may depend on the facts of your situation. There is no clear general answer under current law. You may want to speak with a lawyer.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and several federal courts have held that an employer cannot lawfully ask for information on arrests that did not result in conviction. The EEOC has also held that it is a discriminatory employment practice to fire an employee who failed to supply information on an arrest that did not lead to a conviction. However, unlike some other states, Louisiana does not have a law that makes it illegal for employers to ask about prior arrests. Lying on a job application, even if not illegal, may lead to your losing the job later, and being denied unemployment compensation benefits. Expunged state arrest records may still be in federal records. It is a felony to lie on a federal application for a job or license. You may want to speak with a lawyer if you are faced with a federal application that asks questions about arrest records, whether expunged or not.

Can an employer refuse to hire me because of my criminal record?

Maybe. It may or may not be legal to use it your as a reason not to hire you or give you a license or permit. Talk with a lawyer if this happens to you. Act quickly because there may be deadlines to go to court.

Last Review and Update: Feb 11, 2011