In today’s job market the difference between getting that new job and not can come down to an old arrest on a background check. There is a popular misconception that after “X” number of years an old arrest is automatically removed from a criminal background. Another misconception is that if the district attorney drops the charge the arrest will not appear on your record. Nothing is further from the truth.
An arrest is not removed until an expungement motion is filed and a hearing is held before a judge. That procedure applies even if you were found ‘not guilty’ by a judge or jury at trial. Until you take action you can forever have an arrest sitting on your background waiting to appear at an inopportune time.
People frequently wait until an employer or apartment manager requests a background check before they concern themselves with trying to clear their record. Other situations which spur folks to action include obtaining permits or state licenses, and applying for student loans or admission to college. The bottom line is if you have an old arrest you should have it expunged before it can cause you unnecessary harm or embarrassment.
Having said this you need to know that not all arrests can be removed from a criminal background. Also an expungment does not mean that the record will be completely destroyed. Law enforcement will still have access, but the public will not. So, how does one get an expungement in Jefferson Parish?
The first step is to get a background check from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. You will need your driver’s license or state ID and there is a $50.00 fee. Go to the J.P.S.O. Administrative Complex, Building “A” at 1233 Westbank Expressway in Harvey. The Records and Reports section is open from 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday.
Generally, the types of arrests that may be removed are ones which were refused or dismissed by the prosecutor (and the appropriate time limits have passed) and those which resulted in “not guilty” verdicts. It is obvious that in either of these situations a removal of the arrest is justified. There is a big difference between an arrest and a conviction. There are also some situations involving first offenders when an arrest that leads to probation can also be removed.
If an individual is convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail (not probation) then in certain circumstances the arrest may be removed. Conviction includes if you pled guilty or were found guilty.
If there was a plea agreement as a first offender followed by the successful completion of probation, then it may be possible to (eventually) remove the underlying arrest. These are cases where the plea of guilty was entered under the provisions of Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 893 (felony) or Article 894 (misdemeanor). Before an expungement can be filed a Motion to Set Aside the Conviction needs to be heard. You should probably consult an attorney for assistance in those instances.
Forms for expungements in Jefferson Parish can be obtained from the Criminal Section of the Clerk of Court’s Office. (First floor, Courthouse, 200 Derbigny Street, Gretna.) The clerk will provide you with a form, but he is not allowed to instruct you or advise you as to how to complete the form. Because the form is not easy to complete many people choose to hire an attorney. Additionally, multiple charges on the same arrest date with different dispositions also may make the task too difficult to complete correctly. If it is done incorrectly the judge will deny it.
Court costs are involved with the filing of an expungement, $550.00 for a felony and $500.00 for a misdemeanor.
In addition to a background check you need to attach other documents to the form depending on the outcome of the arrest. If the charges were refused by the district attorney you will need to include a letter of refusal from the D.A. (The Jefferson Parish D. A.’s office is also located at 200 Derbigny Street in Gretna.) If the charges were filed and later dismissed in court you will need to attach a copy of the minute entry from the clerk showing same.
After you file the expungement motion and pay the court costs it will be set for a hearing in front of a judge. The arresting agency and prosecutor will be served with notice of this hearing and will have a chance to object if they have grounds to do so. If the court finds there are grounds for an expungement then it may be granted.
Also note that there are additional time limitations for filing DWI arrest expungements.
This has been an attempt to simplify and explain the expungement law and process in Jefferson Parish. If you have an old arrest on your record you have no excuse. Clear your record and keep it that way.
*Revised on April 14, 2017 to reflect current figures.