Now that I've reviewed the laws that govern expungements, it's time to take a look at how the process works.
First, a word of warning. I would HIGHLY recommend that you hire a lawyer that is familiar with the expungement process (such as myself). It is entirely possible to do an expungement on one's own. However, many people do not realize that filing an expungement is not cheap. The filing fees can and usually do amount to slightly under $600. If a person files an expungement and something is not done properly (which happens A LOT), that $550-$600 fee will not be refunded and the self-filer will be poorer for it with no expungement to boot.
The first step I usually take when filing an expungement when a conviction is involved is to file a Motion to Set Aside and Dismiss The Prosecution. This can only be done when the convictions were taken under article 894 (for misdemeanors) or article 893 (for felonies). This is a relatively easy step, but a necessary one as the Code of Criminal Procedure is clear that you cannot expunge a conviction without setting it aside first. So long as the person completed their probation successfully, I can file the Motion to Set Aside and it should be granted by the trial court. When the trial court grants the motion, the dismissal of prosecution by law has the same effect as an acquittal. If the case against a person was refused by the district attorney's office or when the statutes of limitation have run, this portion of the process need not be performed.
The next step is usually to gather a bunch of paperwork. The only document that is required for every expungement is a background check performed within the 30 days preceding the filing of the expungement. Depending on the type of expungement you are doing, the following documents may also be required:
Bill of information
Minute entry showing final disposition of case
Certification letter from the DA's office verifying that the applicant has no conviction or pending criminal charges
Certification letter from the DA's office verifying that the matter was refused
Certification letter from the DA's office verifying that the applicant did not participate in a diversion program
Order waiving sex offender requirements
The third step is to actually fill out the expungement paperwork. The forms are written into the Code of Criminal Procedure and are readily available at several places, such as the Louisiana Clerks of Court Association's website (http://www.laclerksofcourt.org/Expungement%20Forms%20Index.htm). Just as different types of expungement require different necessary documents, different types of expungements require different forms. It would simply take too much time for me to explain which forms are required for each type of expungement. A good expungement lawyer should know this information, so if you want to hire somebody to help you out, it is a good question to ask.
After filing the paperwork and paying the necessary fees, the expungement packet gets sent to the arresting agency, the Louisiana State Police, and the applicable district attorney's office. Each has an opportunity to object to the expungement and to request a hearing to air their objection(s) to a judge. In practice, this rarely happens if the above three steps were done properly. I have seen situations where the state police object to an expungement being granted, but I cannot recall as I type this a situation where the arresting agency or district attorney's office objected.
Typically, after one files an expungement, that person will be given a court date to appear before a judge. Ultimately, the judge is the party responsible for signing an order of expungement. If none of the three aforementioned parties object to the expungement, the judge will almost certainly sign the order. I have never seen a situation where a judge did not grant an expungement when no party (including the prosecutor) objected.
After the judge grants the expungement, the packet gets sent to the Louisiana State Police, who are responsible for removing all evidence of the arrest and/or prosecution from public record. Unfortunately, this process can take a long time – up to 6-8 months in some cases. There is also nothing that can be done to expedite the process in my experience. I have become familiar with the attorneys with the state police who handle expungements through my work, and they usually have a backlog of expungements that they are working on.
Finally, after the state police performs its work, they will send a letter referred to a “Certificate of Compliance” letter, which states that they have completed their work and removed all evidence of the arrest and/or prosecution from public record. That completes the expungement process. Again, if you are looking to expunge an arrest or conviction, or know someone that does, give me a call!