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Can you erase an arrest record in the Internet age? - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Can you erase an arrest record in the Internet age?

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

A wrongful arrest can haunt innocent men and women even after the cuffs come off.

For decades, Louisiana has allowed people who weren't convicted in certain cases to file expungement lawsuits and take the arrest and trial information out of public view. But is that reality possible in an increasingly digital world?

"The idea is- if a person's been accused or charged and it doesn't result in a conviction- then it's not fair for that person to have to carry that and explain everything they go before a job interview," defense attorney Jason Waltman said.

Police departments, district attorney offices and jails commonly wipe clean their records, but the internet now complicates matters.

"Several years ago, we had an incident where we had a press release that we had taken down from our computer system that was still viewable when the person did a Google search," Shreveport Police Department's Bill Goodin said. "We had done everything we could do and it was gone from our system."

Goodin says the department routinely gets expungement orders but not on a daily basis. When they get one, Goodin says they check the department's website and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Social media users can easily and legally take screen shots to save and share that information.

New legislation wants to take the power from one growing group: private, for-profit businesses.

"If he has an expungement consent and a record authenticating that fact, then he has an expungement," Rep. Roy Burrell said of websites like mugshots.com. "I think they have the obligation to remove that from their website."

Burrell is one of the more than forty lawmakers co-sponsoring House Bill 55 to revise the current expungement law.

"A lot of these third party companies- they are only on the internet- they will sell your information or sell information that may incriminate you," Burrell said. "I think we need to have some control after that."

"Today, that could happen and there would be no recourse for the person because an expungement is directed towards public agencies."

House Bill 55 says a private third-party entity cannot disseminate information about arrests, convictions, or other dispositions after receiving expungement notices. If they do, the organization may be liable for any actual damages, court costs and attorney fees that are incurred by the person whose criminal history was disseminated.

HB 55 would also widen the availability of expungements. Currently, it's only available to people who weren't convicted. HB 55 would allow some people to clear misdemeanors after five years and some felony convictions after ten years.

Representative Roy Burrell says there's another problem with the expungement system: cost.

He says a lot of people who are eligible for expungement simply can't afford it. It's is free in some cases, and House Bill 256 from Representative Barbara Norton seeks to widen that category.

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