As of July 1, 2014, thousands of Hoosiers who have been arrested or convicted of non-violent crimes will have the opportunity to have these crimes completely expunged and wiped clean from their records.
This opportunity comes with a new law recently passed during the spring General Assembly Session. The new law, House Enrolled Act 1482, creates the state’s first criminal-records expungement process that covers a vast array of lower-level crimes. This new law replaces the current one that gives courts only limited authority to keep low-level crimes from public view.
Lawmakers created the bill in response to constituent concerns that someone’s long-ago criminal record could prevent employment or other opportunities, such as becoming foster parents. A bipartisan effort made the bill possible and pushed it forward through both chambers.
From the Herald Bulletin, Senator Brent Steele stated: “Everybody has done something stupid when they were young and didn’t get caught for it. This is for people who did get caught and turned their lives around but have to keep paying for their crime again and again and again.”
In order to be eligible for expungement, the petitioner must show through a pattern of behavior and through time that they have redeemed themselves and have not committed any subsequent crimes. Conditions for eligibility are based on both time and behavior since the criminal charge was filed or the end of the sentence.
Violent and sex crimes are not included on the list of offenses for expungement, as well as crimes involving misconduct or fraud by a public official.
If a petitioner has met all of the required criteria under the law, a judge is required to explunge the record if the crime is one of the included low-level crimes. For higher-level crimes, judges are given more discretion. Prosecutors and crime victims are also given an opportunity to argue against the expungement.
While people can complete these petitions and file on their own, lawmakers encourage individuals to seek legal advice, if not hire legal counsel, before filing. The reason for this recommendation is the strict guidelines involved in properly filling out these petitions. Failure to fill out the petition properly can cause it to be tossed out of court. A petitioner may have to wait for at least three years before filing again. If the petitioner has multiple charges or arrests, not including each offense in the petition can cause it to be denied forever for expungement.
While the law does expunge the criminal records kept by courts, government agencies and law enforcement, it does not erase published history of the crime, which can be especially prevalent in today’s digital age.
However, employers are prohibited from discriminating against someone with a criminal record. Further, the law changes what employers are allowed to ask regarding criminal history during a job interview. Employers can now only ask interviewees, “Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged?”
The law does not completely leave employers without protection, however. If an employer hires someone with an expunged recrod who later commits another crime, employers are protected from resulting law suits.
This current law goes into effect July 1, 2013.