DA begins new justice program

Published 1:59 pm Thursday, October 5, 2017

District Attorney Warren Montgomery in announcing his new “Fresh Start Program,” which will assist those who qualify under state law for a process called expungement to clear an old arrest or conviction from their official record at a significantly reduced cost in a single day. The program will be held Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Justice Center, 701 N. Columbia St., in Covington.

Those interested in participating must first get pre-qualified by taking one of the following steps:

  • Attend an intake session Saturday (Oct. 7) from 10 a.m. to noon at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 837 E. 7th St., Bogalusa, to get assistance with required paperwork from paralegal volunteers.

Attend “Ask a Lawyer” Day Oct. 26, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the St. Tammany Parish Library, 310 W. 21st Ave., Covington, to get assistance with the paperwork from a volunteer attorney.

  • Call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 985-893-0076 for assistance with the paperwork from a volunteer attorney.

Once potential participants complete the pre-qualification paperwork, a program administrator will contact them to let them know whether they meet the state-mandated criteria for expungement. If they qualify, they will be given a group number and a time to appear at the courthouse on Nov. 18. Only those who have been pre-qualified will be invited to participate on Nov. 18.

On the day of the event, participants will be screened for final approval, and all of the agencies involved in the process will be on hand to sign off on the expungement. District Attorney Montgomery and the following public officials have agreed to waive their fees: Sheriff Randy “Country” Seal and Clerk of Court Johnny Crain in Washington Parish, and Sheriff Randy Smith and Clerk of Court Melissa Henry in St. Tammany. Fees alone usually cost $550, not including the cost of an attorney, and the process normally takes several months to complete.

Through the Fresh Start Program, the first 100 qualified participants will pay only $100, which will help to cover the cost of a background check to be conducted by the Louisiana State Police. The $100 fee must be paid by a U.S. Postal Service money order only; no checks, credit cards, cash or other forms of payment will be accepted.

Others will be put on a waiting list.

The community partners that will assist with the pre-qualification process include: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Louisiana United International, East St. Tammany NAACP, and New Orleans Paralegal Association.

For more information, visit online at www.damontgomery.org.