by Philip Sheward July 2013
Many who find themselves involved in Indiana's criminal justice system often ask whether there is anything that may be done to clear their record. As a criminal defense lawyer, I have become accustomed to relaying bad news on this topic, because until recent passage of a law that will go into effect on July 1, 2013, most people were not eligible under Indiana's old expungement law. Fortunately, Indiana lawmakers have continued a recent trend of cutting good people a break when their past might be haunting them, and they have done so by creating a new law for expungement in Indiana.
Now, beginning July 1, 2013, a person in Indiana may, on one occasion during their life, erase their criminal record. Of course, there are rules about who may do this, and people who have been convicted of most sex or violent offenses won't be eligible. That said, many people who might have made some mistakes while they were younger, but have since been able to stay out of trouble, will find available a means to cause their criminal record to disappear.
Many individuals who are trying to expunge prior misdemeanor convictions will be able to do so if they are finished with their sentence (including any probation), don't have any other charges pending against them, and haven't been convicted of any crimes within the last five (5) years. The way the law is written, it appears that courts will not have discretion, assuming the requirements are met. Once the expungement is granted, the public will have no way of accessing the record, though law enforcement will still have access.
The same sort of relief may be available for some people with felony convictions, though the waiting period will be eight (8) years for a D felony, and ten (10) years for those with more major felony convictions. Additionally, while the relief appears non-discretionary for those seeking to expunge misdemeanors, those with felony convictions seeking expungement will have to convince a judge that it's the right thing to do, since courts will retain discretion as to whether or not to grant expungement of felony offenses. Further, for these types of offenses, if they are expunged, the public may still be able to access a limited record that will specify that the record has been expunged, though it will not offer any details about the matter that has been expunged. Some felonies, like murder, for instance, will not be eligible at all.
From a practical standpoint, the law offers job seekers some help as well. Prospective employers will now only be able to ask on a job application, "have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged by a court?" Hopefully, this will make a real impact for those looking for a second chance.
The lawyers at the law firm of ALLEN WELLMAN McNEW HARVEY, LLP are here to help if past actions are causing you current problems. Please feel free to contact us for assistance.