Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Recent Changes to Louisiana’s Expungement Law – New Waiting Times Before Expungement Can Be Requested

This is the latest blog post regarding the Louisiana Legislature’s recent changes to the expungement law. The new expungement law, or rather laws, repeals LSA-R.S. 44:9 and replaces it with a whole host of new laws found in Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 971-995. There are many new changes and this blog will explain one important and beneficial change for people seeking to expunge their criminal conviction.

In order to be eligible for an expungement under the old law (44:9) it was required that you be sentenced under Article 893 (misdemeanor) or Article 894 (felony). Often though, this important detail was neglected either because the attorney forgot to request it from the judge or the judge declined to make it available. In my practice I get many phone calls from people who were not sentenced under the expungement article. Under the new expungement law these people are now eligible for an expungement if:

You were convicted of a misdemeanor and it has been at least 5 years since the end of your sentence/probation. For felonies the wait time is 10 years after the end of your sentence/probation In addition, during the 5 or 10 year waiting period you cannot have been convicted of an additional criminal charge (misdemeanor or felony) and have no pending criminal charges against you at the time of filing.

This is a great change to the expungement law and will benefit many people. If you need help expunging your criminal record of a misdemeanor or  felony conviction please contact attorney Rhett Spano at 225-387-8327 or for a free consultation. You can also get more information from my website at

Monday, August 25, 2014

Recent Changes to Louisiana’s Expungement Law – Expunging An Arrest From Your Criminal Record

We've been blogging about the recent changes to Louisiana’s expungement law. This blog explains how you can obtain an expungement for an arrest. Obviously if you have a conviction you want to get that expunged. However, not all arrests lead to convictions, or even a prosecution. Nevertheless, an arrest could cost you that new job you've worked hard to get so don’t take a chance – get it expunged.

Let’s say you went to a party with some friends and had a few drinks. On the way home you’re stopped by the police for suspicion of DUI. During the stop the police search your car and see drugs on the floorboard that one of your friends discarded. The friend remains silent and you have to take the charge because it’s your car after all. You’re arrested for DUI and possession of drugs. Obviously, this does not look good to prospective employers.

However, you hire an experienced criminal attorney (such as myself) and he convinces the District Attorney that the case against you is not a good one and you are not prosecuted: your attorney proves that the police officer forgot to calibrate the Intoxilyzer and thus the results are invalid. Also, your attorney proves that the drugs were located on the passenger side floorboard and that you were driving the car. Not likely that you put the drugs there and more likely someone who was in the back seat did. Boom! Out of the woods right?

Not really. Even though you were not prosecuted your criminal record still shows that you were arrested for DUI and possession of drugs. The vast majority of employers will take a pass on hiring you. What can be done about this?

You can get the arrest record expunged under Article 976. There is no set waiting time to get an arrest expunged if any of these conditions are met:

1.     You are not prosecuted for the offense and the time period that the DA has to prosecute you for the offense is expired. How long this time period is depends on the crime. It is longer for felonies than misdemeanors. An experienced attorney can tell you if this has occurred.

2.     The District Attorney declines to prosecute any offense arising out of the arrest.  If the DA goes on record as stating they are not going to prosecute then you don’t have to “run out the clock” on the time period. Again, an attorney can help you determine this.

3.     You are prosecuted but an attorney gets the case dismissed in court, gets the charges quashed or wins your trial. As you can see, hiring a good defense attorney has a direct effect on your ability to get an arrest expunged.

If you need help expunging your criminal record of a misdemeanor or felony arrest please contact attorney Rhett Spano at 225-387-8327 or for a free consultation. You can also get more information from my website at

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Recent Changes to Louisiana’s Expungement Law – How Do You Know If You Are Eligible to Have Your Conviction Expunged

Today’s post regarding Louisiana's new expungement law answers the question, “how do I know if I am eligible to have my conviction expunged?” A conviction on your criminal record can mean the denial of a hard sought job. Trust me, you don’t want to go through the experience of being denied a job because of a conviction on your criminal record.

You are eligible to have your criminal conviction expunged if:

1.     At the time of your sentencing the judge sentenced you under Article 893 (felony conviction) are Article 894 (misdemeanor conviction). After you completed your sentence, the conviction was set aside in the prosecution was dismissed under Article 893 or 894 in court.

2.     Even if when you were originally sentenced it was not under Article 893 or 894, you are still eligible to have your conviction expunged if:

More than five (5) years has elapsed since the completion of your sentence if you were convicted of a misdemeanor or more than ten (10) years has elapsed since the completion of your sentence if you were convicted of a felony and you have not been convicted of any additional misdemeanor/felony offense during the 5 year or 10 year period.

However, the following misdemeanor convictions are not eligible for expungement:

1.     If it arose from circumstances involving a sex offense (LSA-R.S. 15:541).

2.     A misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse battery which was not dismissed pursuant to article 894(B).

A new and welcome change to the expungement law is the provision of multiple misdemeanor convictions. Under the new law, a person can have a misdemeanor expungement once every five (5) years. However, the expungement of a conviction for a DUI 1st or 2nd offense (misdemeanor) can occur only once every ten (10) years.

There are certain felony convictions that cannot be expunged. These are defined as “crimes of violence” and are listed in LSA-R.S. 14:2(B), which is over forty (40) in number. A sex crime against a minor is also not eligible to be expunged. A welcome change to the expungement law is the eligibility of certain drug crimes for felony expungement. Under the previous law certain felony level drug offenses were not expungement. The new law allows for the expungement of some of these offenses, as well as possession with the intent to distribute (PWIT) crimes.

If you need help expunging your criminal record of a misdemeanor or felony conviction or arrest please contact criminal defense attorney Rhett Spano at 225-387-8327 or for a free consultation. You can also get more information from my website at

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Recent Changes to Louisiana’s Expungement Law – Online Criminal Record Searches

Recently the legislature passed a new law (House Bill 55) that makes many changes to Louisiana’s expungement law. One of the most important changes deals with internet based companies that sell criminal records to employers performing background checks on job applicants. Because even a minor offense on your criminal record can prevent you from getting a job, it is important that you understand how the new law affects your rights with respect to your criminal record and how you can protect your privacy once you have gotten an expungement.

It is a problem that I see often in my criminal law practice: someone is denied a job because their employer discovered they have a criminal record. More frequently in past years employers are purchasing criminal backgrounds over the internet from companies that buy them in bulk from the police department or clerk’s offices (some people say they may even hack into databases). Because of the huge amounts of criminal records obtained at a time it is not unheard for these companies to make a mistake in either identification or the type of charges. In other words, the criminal records these companies sell may not be completely accurate which could cost you a job.

The new law states that after you have an arrest or conviction expunged off your criminal record and you give any company proper notice of your expungement, they can no longer sell it to a prospective employer or maintain the information on their website. Any company that sells your criminal record after you have notified them of your expungement is liable to you for damages, court costs and attorney fees. In other words you can sue them.

Another important change to the expungement law is that you are not required to disclose to a prospective employer that you were previously arrested or convicted after you receive an expungement. This means that you can check “no” on a job application if it asks if you have been arrested or convicted.

It is important to understand that when your criminal record is expunged the record of it is not destroyed, but rather removed from public view. Public records are those kept by the clerk’s office or law enforcement and does not include online companies. After you receive an expungement you must take steps to inform these online companies that your criminal record has been expunged. Hiring an experienced criminal attorney can help ensure that a potential employer does not deny you a job because they have discovered you have a criminal record (that is now expunged) from one of the many online companies.

If you need help expunging your criminal record of an arrest or a conviction please contact attorney Rhett Spano at 225-387-8327 or for a free consultation. You can also get more information from my website at

Friday, July 25, 2014

Talking In The Police Car Can Get You In (More) Trouble

Most people realize from watching TV shows that police cars contain a dash camera and that the officer carries a microphone on his person. What is captured by these devices is often used by the prosecutor as Exhibit 1 at trial. What most people do not realize, however, is that the police car contains equipment to record what you say and do after you are arrested.

As a criminal defense attorney, I never want to think that I have a great defense, only to learn in the middle of trial that my client said or did something on camera during their arrest that greatly increases the chance of a guilty verdict. Therefore, any lawyer worth his or her salt will carefully review the entire video of the stop as soon as possible.
This happened recently with a client who was arrested for possession of one-half kilos of cocaine and almost a pound of marijuana. The drugs were found in a back-pack on the back seat of his car following a traffic stop. His defense was that he had no idea that the drugs were there and that he had been “set up” by some people who had been in the car with him earlier that day. This is a very serious felony drug charge and my client was facing up to ten years in prison. However, he was very adamant about his defense.
Because I practice criminal defense in Baton Rouge, which is on the I-10 interstate, I represent a lot of clients who are charged with possession of drugs following a traffic stop. The video of their arrest often contains valuable information regarding the reasons for the stop (or lack of, as is sometimes the case), as well as other important information that I can use to get the evidence thrown out or “suppressed”. Therefore, I thoroughly review the video on all new cases ASAP.

Sometimes, however, the video contains information that is potentially harmful to my client’s defense. That happened in a recent case I handled. After my client was handcuffed and placed into the rear of the police unit, the officer left him alone to go inventory and weigh the drugs that had been seized. As soon as the police officer shut the door, my client, not realizing he was being recorded, began talking to himself.  Incredibly, this is what he said:

Going to jail.  This is one of the stupidest things I’ve did. Shoulda got the coke outta there.

Obviously, this statement strongly indicates my client knew the drugs were in the car and that he had not been “set up” as claimed. Luckily, I caught this statement early on by reviewing the video thoroughly. If I had gone to trial with my clients story, he surely would have been convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence for this serious felony drug crime. Instead, I quickly went to the Assistant District Attorney and sought a plea bargain and was offered probation for my client. Why would the prosecutor agree to give my client probation when he had these incriminating statements? The answer is simple: he had not yet reviewed the video. Because the case was still relatively new the prosecutor simply had not gotten around to looking at the video. If he had he would have heard the statement and not been so generous. This was a major save.

If you are arrested for possession of drugs or for any serious felony crime, call Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney Rhett Spano now at (225) 387-8327. Or you email me a question at  Also, be sure to visit my website at for additional information regarding selecting a criminal defense attorney.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Fair Sentencing Act Applies Retroactively For Those Serving Federal Time For Crack Cocaine Convictions

In 2013 the U.S. Congress passed a law known as the Fair Sentencing Act ("FSA") that revised federal sentencing guidelines for those convicted of possession of crack cocaine. Briefly, before the FSA was enacted federal sentencing guidelines mandated that a person convicted of possession of crack cocaine would serve a much longer sentence than a person found guilty of possession of powder cocaine.  For example, a person convicted of possessing just 5 grams of crack cocaine would get the same 5 year minimum mandatory sentence as the person convicted of possessing 500 grams of powder cocaine. That's a big difference.

Once the FSA became law in 2013 it was discovered that it did not apply retroactively to those defendants serving sentences for convictions prior to 2013. Therefore, Congress was urged to enact an amendment allowing those people who were sentenced for possession of crack cocaine prior to 2013 to shorten their sentences.

On July 18, 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to make the FSA retroactive and applicable to those who were sentenced prior to 2013. According to, "46,000 federal drug offenders sentence before November 1, 2014, will now be eligible to file a motion in federal court asking for a shorter sentence. The average sentence reduction for those who qualify will be two years."

This great news but it is tempered with some caveats, however:

1.  Reductions are not automatic. Not everyone sentenced before November 1, 2014, will be eligible for a sentence reduction. 

2.  Courts will not begin considering in granting motions percentage reductions until November 1, 2014. Moreover, prisoner releases not begin until the following year, one November 1, 2015 the delay is necessary to give courts and probation officers an opportunity to handle what is expected to be a huge amount of motions percentage reductions.

To find out if you or a loved one are eligible For a retroactive since introduction you should call Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney Rhett Spano at (225) 387-8327 or email your question to You can also visit my website at

Monday, January 28, 2013

What is an Expungement and Why Do I Need One?

An expungement is the legal process by which a record of a criminal conviction is sealed. Obtaining an expungement is very important because it makes prior criminal convictions more difficult for employers and others to detect.

Top Reasons To Get Your Criminal Record Expunged:

1. Getting a Job

Finding a job is hard enough without having to deal with the added pressure of a prior criminal conviction lurking over your head. After your prior criminal record is expunged, the likelihood of an employer finding out is drastically reduced or eliminated completely, depending on the job you are applying for.

2. Peace of Mind

Being convicted of a crime is a life-changing experience that hangs over your head long after you’ve served your time and repaid your debt to society. Consequently, you never feel like you can start fresh because your prior conviction is a constant reminder of the past. Obtaining an expungement will help you feel truly free to move forward and start fresh.

3. Getting a Loan

This may come as a surprise, but a prior criminal conviction will most likely be viewed adversely by a financial institution. Often, banks evaluating your credit worthiness will view a prior criminal conviction as a sign that you will be unable to repay a loan timely. As a result, they may use information of a prior criminal conviction to disqualify your loan application.

4. Adoption

Starting a family is a common desire, and if you have a prior criminal conviction and want to adopt a child, your chances of doing so may be lessened by the presence of a prior criminal conviction. That's why getting your record expunged is so important. Fifteen states have made it illegal for any person with a prior criminal conviction to adopt a child. However, obtaining an expungement could increase your chances of adopting a child as long as your prior criminal conviction did not involve a child.

5. Relationships

Finding that special person to share your life with is a wonderful experience, but a prior criminal conviction could put your relationship in jeopardy. We live in a tech savvy world where gaining access to personal information is often just a click away. Criminal convictions are public record which means that anyone can easily discover that you have a prior criminal history. Often, a cautious girlfriend or boyfriend is willing to pay a nominal fee to obtain a background check. That is why getting an expungement is crucial to ensure your former misdeeds don’t jeopardize your current relationship.

6. It's relatively Easy and Inexpensive

In most instances, a prior criminal conviction or arrest can be expunged as long as you have completed your sentence, probation or parole and paid all of your fines. Compared to the cost of losing a good paying job, not receiving a necessary loan or losing out on a relationship with someone special, an expungement is very inexpensive.

So what are you waiting for? Call Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney Rhett Spano now at (225) 387-8327 for a free consultation regarding an expungement. Or you can email me a question at Also, be sure to visit my website at for additional information regarding selecting a criminal defense attorney for your expungement.