BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – It can often be costly to get a criminal record expunged either with or without a conviction. A bill in the legislature looks to do away with the cost and make expungement automatic for some records.
HB707 by Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, would create an automatic expungement system between the State Police, Supreme Court, and local Clerks of Court. With the responsibility of starting the process falling on the government, it would do away with the cost to the individual.
The Louisiana Constitution lays out the rules for who qualifies for an expungement. As listed here:
For many crimes, it is available 10 years after a sentence is completed. There are some violent crimes that never qualify for expungement. It costs $550 for the State Police to start the process and it’s often so complicated an attorney must be hired.
“We’ve already decided they’re legally entitled to an expungement but there is a barrier in the way right now,” Rep. Duplessis said. “So some people end up spending over $3,000 to try to get an expungement and the only people who would pay that money are people who are trying to go back to work.”
The bill is a scaled-back version of a bill brought last year. Rep. Duplessis was able to roll back the high price tag of the past legislation by limiting the kinds of records that qualify for the automatic expungement. But some are hung up on the cost to the state.
The state will lose over $3 million next year from the lost revenue and the development of the computer software for the expungements. Every year after there will be a cost of about one million dollars needed to pay for the project.
“We already pay for the public defender, we pay for the district attorney, we pay for the jail time, and now we’re going to pay for the convicted felon’s expungement,” Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge, said.
Rep. Duplessis points out that over $2 million have been put aside for his bill in the budget that passed earlier this session for the State Police and $800,000 for the Louisiana Supreme Court. He also said that getting records cleared will help with recidivism rates and benefit the state.
“This is a person who has done the time, finished a sentence, and has remained conviction free; no misdemeanors, no felonies for 10 years since they finished that sentence,” said Sarah Whittington, senior staff attorney for the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana.
The bill now heads to Senate Finance where Sen. White is chairman. Some of the advocates are nervous about the outcome in the waning days of this legislative session.