A criminal record creates a number of difficulties for anyone’s future, whether it’s merely an arrest record or an actual conviction. Potential employers, educational facilities, and even landlords regularly conduct background checks to search for any conviction or criminal offense. If they find that you have something on your record, it is likely they will consider denying your job application or refusing to take you on as a student or renter. Fortunately, however, there may be a way to get rid of that pesky record once and for all by hiring an expungement lawyer.

Experienced Bossier City criminal defense attorney Michael J. Vergis has represented Louisiana clients in a range of criminal matters for over 20 years. With creative approaches and dedication, he’ll provide the best advice available on how to succeed as a petitioner in the expungement process. A criminal record can be devastating, but those charges don’t have to follow you forever. Call experienced attorney Michael J. Vergis today at 318-698-3724 for a free consultation.

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What is Expungement?

If you have a criminal record, you might have heard about the process of expungement. But what exactly is expungement? Essentially, expungement is the process of sealing your arrest and conviction records, thus rendering your charges irrelevant for any future viewers. Every state, including Louisiana, has an expungement process. State-specific details vary widely. However, most states hold that, once someone’s record goes through expungements, their criminal history need not be disclosed to landlords, employers, or other public parties. (Note – certain agencies and institutions, including any law enforcement agency, criminal justice agency, and certain financial institutions may still be able to access this record.)

During the expungement process, a person’s criminal record is completely removed from state or federal records. Afterward, the court systems treat the charges as if they never occurred. While it may sound similar, expungement does not equal forgiveness. Forgiveness is more akin to a legal pardon than an expungement. The major difference between the two is that pardons do not require the removal of charges from a criminal or public record. Expungements, however, require the formal order of a judge or court system.

How Does Expungement Work?

After you complete your sentence and are looking to apply for expungement, there are a few steps that are required of you. First, you must acquire the correct forms. All Louisiana courts use the same forms, so we recommend using the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Legal Education and Assistance Program website to access these forms. You’ll need to complete these forms and acquire any additional documents required by the court. Your parish’s clerk of court should provide you with all the necessary documents and certifications.

Next, proceed to file your expungement petition with the clerk of court. Present the required documents along with the record you want expunged. You must acquire a copy of this record from the state within 30 days of petitioning for expungement. You should also pay the required filing fees at this time.

If you meet all qualifications for expungement, it is mandatory that you receive it. If nobody objects to your expungement, you will not have a hearing. Within a 60 day period after filing, you will receive a “Certificate of Compliance” from the Louisiana State Police. This means that your record was successfully removed.

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Am I Eligible for Expungement?

There are many cases in which you may be eligible for expungement. Each case has specific rules regarding qualifications. In the case that you were arrested but not convicted of a crime, the following circumstances must be met to be eligible for the expungement of your arrest record:

  • The district attorney for your case did not prosecute you, meaning no conviction occurred.
  • The LA statute of limitations for pressing charges expired and nobody initiated proceedings.
  • Someone dismissed the charges against you.
  • The court granted a motion to quash your charges.
  • The courts acquitted you.

If you were arrested and further convicted of a misdemeanor crime, you must wait at least five years after the end of your sentence to apply for expungement. During that five-year period, only one of your misdemeanor convictions may be expunged. You also cannot have obtained any felony convictions or pending felony charges during that period. Convictions which involve domestic violence, stalking, or sexually motivated crimes are not eligible for expungement.

Can Felonies be Expunged?

In certain cases, a person may be eligible for expungement even if they have a felony charge in Louisiana. For example, if the prosecution was dismissed, or if your conviction was set aside, you are eligible. Further, if over 10 years have passed since you completed your sentence and you were not convicted of another crime during that period, you may be able to have your felony record expunged. However, unless you are seeking expungement for a conviction that was set aside or dismissed, Louisiana allows only one felony expungement within a 15-year period. 

Keep in mind that violent crimes like assault and battery, sex offenses, domestic abuse, and some drug offenses in Louisiana are not eligible for expungement. The statute pertaining to motions to expunge a felony arrest record and/or conviction of a felony offense can be found in Article 978 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.

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How Long Does it Take for Your Record to Clear After Expungement?

In general, the expungement process in Louisiana typically takes about three to four months to complete. After your petition for expungement has been properly filed, it will take 60 days for the appropriate agencies to reply to your request. If none of these agencies object your request, you will then need to wait for the Louisiana State Police to mail you your Certificate of Compliance. This verifies that your record has been sealed. 

Louisiana law also requires that you notify private background check companies of your expungement. Once the company receives a certified copy of your expungement, they can no longer provide any evidence of the expunged record.

Is There a Fee for Filing for Expungement?

Yes, there is in fact a fee for filing for expungement. Generally, a fee of $550 is the baseline cost of expungement. However, certain situations may require additional fees which could bring the total up to about $700. 

It is important to remember that these fees cannot be refunded if it turns out your expungement doesn’t qualify. However, you may want to explore whether or not you are eligible for a waiver of fees. If you qualify for the waiver, submit a “Certification for Fee Waiver” to your parish’s District Attorney. The DA must consent to this waiver. If the DA signs your certification, you must submit your fee waiver form when you file your expungement petition. The state does not waive fees unless the following are true:

  • You don’t have a felony conviction anywhere else in the country.
  • You don’t have pending felony charges.
  • Your criminal offense ended with an acquittal, a motion to quash, dismissal, or a prosecutor’s decision not to pursue your case. 
  • The time limit for your prosecution has expired.
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How Much Does an Expungement Lawyer Cost?

As with any legal case, the price of acquiring an expungement lawyer depends on a variety of factors. The complexity of the case, the number and severity of the charges in question, whether or not hearings are needed, and whether there are any objections to your request all play a part in determining the price, among other things. In general, you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars for an experienced expungement lawyer, in addition to the required state filing fees. 

By explaining the details of your case with a skilled Bossier City expungement attorney at The Law Offices of Michael J. Vergis, you can obtain a better estimate of how much you might be paying for an expungement lawyer.

Contact the Shreveport/Bossier City Expungement Lawyers at the Law Office of Michael J. Vergis ASAP

The process of expungement can be stressful and very complicated. With the help of an experienced Bossier City criminal defense attorney, you have the best shot at successfully expunging your criminal records and getting your future back on track. The expungement attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael J. Vergis are committed to protecting our clients’ rights, as well as providing them with the tools they need to achieve a brighter future. Contact our office today at 318-698-3724 for a consultation, or visit our website.