Imagine you turned over a new leaf 20 years ago, yet a past mistake continues to haunt you as far as getting a job and living a good life. The Fresh Start Initiative is for those trying to clean their criminal record.
An estimated 140 people received preliminary approval today, subject to review by state police. It's the second year for the one-day Fresh Start Initiative at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Not all qualify, but those who do can get their record cleaned.
Daniel Adaway of Sulphur wants an old drug charge off his record for various reasons, including peace of mind.
"I'm clean and sober and I just want to get rid of that stigma and attachment to my name. Ninety percent of us here aren't bad people, we made bad choices," said Adaway.
Clerk of Court Lynn Jones calls the event sort of a one-stop shop that helps accomplish expungement cheaper and faster than otherwise.
"You may walk through this process and have all the agencies look at it, and then it will take just a few days or weeks versus six months," said Jones.
District Attorney John DeRosier says helping people become more employable helps the community.
"The district attorney's office is not here simply to prosecute people. What we're here to do is keep our community safe. When we can get these young people back into mainstream America, get them good high paying jobs, it helps this community.
"As soon as their prospective employer finds out that they've been convicted of a felony, they're no longer being considered," DeRosier continued. "Once you do away with that you'd be amazed at the attitude that is developed by that person, who has been a convicted felon up until that point.
"We can't expunge necessarily everything at one time, but you can expunge one felony. You can expunge cases whether they be felonies or misdemeanors where you were never prosecuted even though you were arrested and charged if you never went to court, or if the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor or something that is expungeable, then it can help you."
Though an expungement only removes a criminal matter from public records, Mark Judson with the SWLA Law center says it's a beginning.
"If you're applying for a job or you're doing any other background check and this thing shows up, all you gotta do is show that it's expunged and the expungement should trump any sort of reporting that is being done by private companies," he said.
Judson says if you contact the private companies and go through the legal process to have information corrected and it's not, you may have legal recourse against them.
Anyone who missed the event can still get the wheels turning toward expungement.
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