My advice is no. The reason why is multifaceted because it discusses the interplay between state and federal laws along with the legal consequences of a Louisiana expungement.  We’ll start this article by discussing Louisiana law prohibiting gun possession for convicted felons followed by a discussion of Louisiana’s expungement rules.  We will conclude with a discussion of federal law and how it differs from Louisiana.

Louisiana Gun Rights

Many people mistakenly believe that anyone convicted of a felony can not possesses a firearm as a matter of state law.  This isn’t actually the case. Not every felony prevents someone from buying or possessing a gun.  According to La. R.S. 14:95.1 there are roughly 4 categories of felonies that prevent you from having a weapon in Louisiana:

  • Convictions for Crimes of Violence
  • Various Grades of Burglary
  • Sex Crimes
  • Felony Drug Crimes

Granted, this list encompasses a lot of crimes.  But, take a look at what is not covered:

  • Felony DWI
  • Negligent Homicide
  • Vehicular Homicide with a lower BAC level
  • White Collar Crimes
  • Theft

Additionally, Louisiana has a “cleansing period” that will restore your ability to have a gun simply upon the passage of time coupled with “good behavior.”  More specifically, Louisiana will restore its citizens their gun rights upon the passing of 10 years from the completion of their sentence or discharge from parole supervision.  That said, anyone convicted of a felony that is serving their sentence on probation and parole should be mindful of a standard condition prohibiting possessing a gun or a firearm as a requirement of their supervision. A violation of this requirement could cause their supervision to be revoked and remand the person back to jail to serve the balance of an outstanding term of imprisonment. But, it wont cause the offender to be prosecuted for a new substantive offense under state law.

So, now that we have this out of the way, what is wrong with an expungement?

Louisiana’s Felony Expungement

Louisiana’s Code of Criminal Procedure has two mechanisms that allow for the expungement of certain felonies. The most often cited provision is the “Article 893” expungement in which a first offender convicted of a non-violent felony has his sentence “deferred” and placed onto probation for a period of time.  Upon successfully completing probation, the Court will allow the offender to “set aside” or “dismiss” the conviction allowing him to remove it from his public record.  The second type of felony expungement is found in Article 978 also known as the “10 year expungement.” This expungement is not available for all felonies and even certain misdemeanor crimes specified according to the statute.  Additionally, it is not available to anyone convicted of any crime during the previous 10 years or those with pending criminal charges.

Regardless of the mechanism used, neither of these expungements will restore a person’s gun rights within Louisiana. These provisions do not destroy the evidence of a conviction; it merely shields them from public disclosure allowing people to advance with their education and occupation without having the stigma of being a “convicted felon” follow them wherever they go. Indeed, law enforcement will still be aware of these expunged convictions and prosecutors may still be able to use them for purposes of the habitual offender statute or other sentencing enhancements.

Federal Law Regarding Gun Rights

Federal law isn’t as forgiving as state law. According to 18 U.S.C. 922(g), anyone convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year or even a misdemeanor domestic violence offense is prohibited from possessing a firearm. Under federal law, a felony is considered a crime punishable by more than 1 year.  Here are the implicit distinction between Louisiana and federal law:

  • The federal prohibition on gun possession applies to all felonies and certain misdemeanors
  • The federal prohibition does not provide for a cleansing period that will restore gun rights

What does this mean?

Simply put, anyone ever convicted of a crime that would either constitute a federal felony by virtue of its potential penalty or certain misdemeanor crimes can never possess a gun regardless of whether a particular state affords them or even restores their gun rights.

What is the Solution

The only viable solution I can think of allowing for a felon to ever be allowed to possess a gun is having their liberty restored through a full pardon by their governor.  A true pardon serves as an exoneration that does indeed eliminate the stain of a conviction and will restore the offender to his citizenship status prior to obtaining the conviction. But, as you can imagine, these are hard to obtain.

André Bélanger, a graduate of Loyola University, is a highly-respected criminal defense attorney serving the people of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and surrounding areas of Ascension Parish and New Orleans, for one of Baton Rouge’s top-25 law firms. In his 18 years of practicing law, Mr. Bélanger has handled thousands of criminal cases at both the pre-trial and trial stage, including approximately 200 trials. This trial experience includes homicide defense and prosecution, large drug conspiracies and fraud cases making Bélanger one of the few attorneys capable of handling even the largest, most complex federal cases. Having spent years devoted to developing a top-tier regional law practice for federal court and state court litigation, Mr. Bélanger is admitted to practicing law in all federal courts in both Louisiana, Mississippi, the United States Supreme Court and the U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.