Even a pandemic could not stop the Louisiana legislature from passing long-needed legislation addressing the state’s overly complicated process of clearing old criminal records for thousands of Louisianans. These new policy changes, which all take effect August 1, remove barriers to employment and education for those who have paid their debt and are especially vital to ensure that Louisianans with criminal records are a part of the picture as the economy begins to reopen in the wake of COVID-19.
To save Louisiana taxpayers money and help the 1.2 million Louisianans living with criminal records get a fair chance at finding employment, the Clean Slate Initiative, which includes state partners and CJI, helped state leaders and advocates from across the political spectrum move multiple Clean Slate-related bills from introduction to final passage in less than a month. The legislation will have an immediate impact and should set the stage for automating the expungement process in the near future.
Together, the legislation removes the lifetime cap on expunging a criminal record, expands eligibility for expunging a record, and allows for more people who receive a deferred judgment to seek an expungement:
- Act 70 (Formerly House Bill 178): Extends eligibility for expungements for individuals who receive alternatives to incarceration, especially in cases where defendants are in recovery treatment programs (current law does not allow someone in a treatment program to apply for expungement).
- Act 71 (Formerly House Bill 179): Eliminates the current requirement of needing documentation to prove 10 years of employment before expunging a record. This bill provides an opportunity for people with disabilities, veterans who may suffer from PTSD and cannot work, family members or caretakers of disabled veterans who cannot work, retired people, and anyone who did work 10 years continuously but were denied because there were no rules about acceptable paperwork.
- Act 78 (Formerly House Bill 241): Permits individuals who are already eligible for multiple expungements to achieve reentry success sooner by eliminating secondary waiting periods and removing lifetime caps on expungements (previously an individual could only expunge two misdemeanors and one felony offense removed throughout their life). This bill also clarifies that any prohibition of expungements applies only to individuals in physical custody of the Department of Corrections.
- House Resolution 67: Establishes the Clean Slate Study Group, whose members will study and evaluate the process and procedure for automatic record-clearing for individuals who remain free from convictions for a certain period of time.
Louisiana law currently has a process to expunge old criminal records. However, the procedures necessary to clear a record remain challenging. Louisiana made significant progress by improving the process and reducing barriers such as the paper-based expungement process that will now move more quickly for both the court and petitioners.
Louisiana’s ongoing commitment to a more effective and efficient justice system continues to make it a leader in thoughtful policy change that improves justice for all Louisianans.