Driving offenses are not a light matter. Almost 1,000 Louisiana residents died in highway collisions in 2021, which is a state record.
The state of Louisiana takes all driving offenses seriously, even misdemeanors. But that doesn’t mean that the state is punitive. Article 892.1 in Louisiana gives you a way to avoid harsh criminal penalties after a misdemeanor driving offense such as speeding.
Yet what exactly is Article 892.1? What cases does it apply to? How can you pursue Article 892.1 and get your criminal record off the books?
Answer these questions and you can put a misdemeanor conviction in your rearview mirror. Here is your quick guide.
The Basics of Article 892.1 in Louisiana
Article 892.1 discusses driver improvement programs for misdemeanor driving offenses in Louisiana. Whenever a driver is convicted of a misdemeanor traffic offense, the court may order the driver to attend a driver improvement program. This is regardless of any other sentence the court decides to impose.
If a driver is a first-time offender, the court can suspend a sentence under the condition that the driver attends a program. The driver must pay for the cost of the program and provide proof of completion within 90 days. Both adult and minor drivers can qualify for Article 892.1.
The program must be new to the driver. They must file an affidavit stating that they are not in the process of taking another course nor have they completed a course within two years.
After completing the program, the court may dismiss the charge that the driver is facing. They will not have a record for a criminal conviction, though the driver’s driving record can note that they have completed the course under Article 892.1.
Limitations of Article 892.1
There are several significant limitations to Article 892.1. If you are charged with a felony driving offense, you cannot qualify for 892.1. A court may still require you to take a driving improvement program, but you cannot have your charges dismissed.
If you are charged with speeding 25 miles per hour or more over the speed limit, you cannot qualify. It does not matter if you were charged with no other offenses or if no one got hurt.
Only one charge will be dismissed. You may get charged with multiple offenses at once, like driving while intoxicated and reckless driving. The court can still sentence you to prison or probation for the other offenses you face.
Dismissed charges will still appear on your criminal record. A background check from an employer may include your criminal record, so potential employers can see what happened. But Article 892.1 specifies that an insurance company cannot increase your premium or cancel your policy due to the offense.
What You Should Do After an Arrest
Any arrest can be disorientating. Study what you need to do and then follow the steps one by one so you avoid giving too much evidence to the police.
Stay Silent and Ask for Help
Once you see the police behind you on a roadway, you should pull over and stop your vehicle. Get your license and insurance and turn the lights inside your vehicle on.
You must hand your license and insurance over to the police, and you must say what your name and address are. After that, you are not required to say anything to the police, and you should say nothing besides, “I wish to assert my right to remain silent.”
Once the police arrest you, you should again invoke your right to silence and ask for an attorney. Do not consent to a search of yourself or your vehicle.
After you go through the booking process, you can contact a lawyer. You can call any defense attorney you want, but find someone with a specialty in driving offenses. They can use their specialized experience and expertise to build a case for you.
Apply for Article 892.1
When you meet with your lawyer, you can tell them that you want to try Article 892.1. Your lawyer will handle talking with the prosecutor and negotiating the terms of 892.1 for you.
Look into driver’s courses and find one that appeals to you. You can take online courses, though you must take a course that the court approves.
Talk to the judge or a court officer about a few options. You should not start taking the course until you get approval from the court.
In the meantime, you should stay clear of the police and live as lawful a life as possible. You should avoid driving, even if your license has not been suspended. Committing another driving violation can result in additional penalties.
Get Your Crimes Expunged
In order to have your criminal record removed, you must get your crime expunged in Louisiana. To apply for expungement, you must have no other convictions besides traffic citations. You must have completed the driver improvement program and avoided any other charges.
If your charges were dismissed, you can apply for expungement right away. You need to fill out expungement forms and pay a $550 filing fee. The court must grant you expungement if you qualify, so you may not need a hearing.
You can file your forms by yourself, but you should contact a lawyer to make sure you are filing them correctly. They can also check the information for you so all details are accurate.
The Essentials of Article 892.1 in Louisiana
Article 892.1 in Louisiana allows drivers to pursue court-approved driver education programs and avoid penalties for misdemeanor driving offenses. It does not apply to felony charges, repeat offenders, or people who have taken court-mandated programs.
But it will get your charges dismissed and make the path to expungement easy. Deny the police any evidence by pleading the Fifth. Avoid committing any other driving offenses and apply for expungement once you’ve taken the education program.
You’ll need all the help you can get. Carl Barkemeyer serves all of Louisiana. Contact us today.