“What’s an expungement if it isn’t an expungement?” That’s the reaction one of my clients had when I explained to her that an expungement only removes a criminal record from public view, but it remains accessible to a whole host of state administrative agencies, law enforcement and even licensing agencies such as the Board of Nursing and the State Bar Association.
In light of the sheriff and local organizations recently championing the idea of expunging the records of the gay men illegally arrested for “crimes against nature,” it is important to understand what that does not provide. It does not actually erase what happened, but instead hides it from public view. In this instance, that is not sufficient.
Under Louisiana Revised Statute 44:9(J), what the sheriff should be advocating is not only an expungement, but also a petition to the court alleging innocence for an order to destroy the records previously expunged. Only then can the gay men have their record completely cleared.
Furthermore, the sheriff needs to offer restitution to the victims for violation of their civil rights in addition to refunding any bond posted by the innocent men. Finally, any person who plead guilty to avoid any further embarrassment should have their convictions set aside.
If we want a sense of justice and fairness in this situation, what the sheriff and local organizations have offered is nothing more than a canard to placate the masses who do not understand what it is they are actually offering.
Donald Hodge Jr.
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