Pharos-Tribune

Breaking News

Local News

June 5, 2013

New law will clear records

State officials preparing for onslaught of interested parties.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana court personnel are preparing for what may be an onslaught of requests from people eager to use a new state law to clear their old criminal records that keep them from getting a good job.

The new law, which goes into effect July 1, creates a mechanism for thousands of Hoosiers who’ve been arrested or convicted of mostly non-violent crimes to wipe clean their criminal history if they meet certain conditions.

The law spells out in detail what crimes are — and aren’t — covered and how to go about getting them expunged.

But it may take awhile for everyone involved in the process — including prosecutors, petitioners, judges, record-keepers, and crime victims — to make it all work.

“The law is incredibly broad,” said Republican Rep. Jud McMillin, a former deputy prosecutor from Brookville who authored the bill. “One of the first things I tell people: If you have criminal record at all, you need to ask somebody if you’re eligible.”

That somebody doesn’t need to be an attorney. But since the law is so new and penalties for getting it wrong are so serious, McMillin and other bill supporters are advising would-be users of it to seek legal advice.

“It’s always suspect when a lawyer says to someone, ‘I wouldn’t try this on my own.’ But in this case, you really shouldn’t try this on your own,” said Republican Sen. Brent Steele, a Bedford attorney who carried the bill in the Senate.

The new law, House Enrolled Act 1482, creates the state’s first criminal-records expungement process that covers a wide array of crimes, from drunk driving to drug dealing, that can be erased by the courts. It replaces a current law that gives courts limited authority to shield some low-level crimes from public view.

Some crimes are off-limits: Most violent and sex crimes can’t be expunged, nor can most crimes involving misconduct or fraud by a public official. To be eligible, a person petitioning the court for a record expungement has to show they’ve redeemed themselves by staying out of trouble.

The bill was passed with bipartisan support from legislators concerned that someone’s long-ago criminal record could be a roadblock to employment and other opportunities.

“Everybody has done something stupid when they were young and didn’t get caught for it,” Steele said. “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.” Conditions to be eligible are specific, based on both time and behavior since the criminal charge was filed or the sentence served.

For example, someone arrested on a misdemeanor charge but never convicted can start the process within a year; someone with a higher-level felony crime conviction, who can prove they’ve since stayed out of trouble, may have to wait up to 10 years after serving the sentence.

For most low-level crimes where the petitioner has met all the conditions in the law, a judge is required to expunge the record. For higher-level crimes, prosecutors can intervene, crime victims can weigh in and judges have more discretion.

To guard against fraud and abuse of the judicial system, the law carries some penalties for not following the rules.  

For example, a person can only file one petition for expungement during their lifetime and that petition has to include every arrest and conviction in their past. The petitions are checked for veracity by comparing them with criminal records kept by the state police and state courts.

Failure to fill out the petition properly can result in getting the petition tossed out of court. Depending on the circumstance, a petitioner may have to wait another three years before they can file again. Someone with multiple charges who fails to report an arrest or conviction in their petition can be forever denied an expungement of that crime.

“The law is written to ensure the public will be very honest with the court,” said Andrew Cullen, the legislative liaison for the Indiana Public Defender Council who helped craft the bill’s language.

Like McMillin and Steele, he’s also advising people who want to use the new law to clear their records to get some legal guidance.

“We’re not encouraging anyone to go it alone,” Cullen said.

Cullen, Steele and McMillin all said the cost shouldn’t be prohibitive, suggesting the legal fees may run into several hundred dollars but not several thousand dollars.

“If someone wants to charge you a price you don’t think is fair, you should seek other counsel,” Cullen said. “From a legal perspective, it doesn’t entail a lot of work. But from the petitioner’s perspective, it’s important to get it right.”

The new law can wipe clean the criminal records kept by the courts, law enforcement and state agencies like the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. But it can’t wipe clean records published in other venues, like electronic newspaper archives or on other Internet sites.

But the law does prohibit employers from discriminating against someone with a criminal record, and also changes how employers are allowed to ask about past criminal history. Under the new law, employees can only be asked: “Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged by a court?”

It also protects employers from being sued if they hire someone who’s had their record expunged but subsequently commits another crime.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Police blotter: April 23, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Mall mortgage up for auction The mortgage note for the Logansport Mall is scheduled to be sold at auction early next month. Foreclosure procedures for the mall began when lawyers for Algonquin State Bank, N.A., out of Algonquin, Ill., filed a complaint against the mall's owner -

    April 23, 2014

  • NWS-PT042314 Earth Day4.jpg Being kind to their mother: Lewis Cass students plant trees on Earth Day WALTON -- Weeks of planning came together Tuesday as students planted 22 trees on the grounds of Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. High School in observance of Earth Day. Amy Densborn, a science teacher at Lewis Cass, wanted to plant the trees so that students in s

    April 23, 2014 5 Photos

  • NWS-PT042314 Bags.jpg Students collect 2,475 pounds of plastic bags The Cass County Solid Waste Management District now knows to be careful what you ask for. The district opted to again this year host its plastic shopping bag contest for area elementary schools in observance of Earth Day. Overall, the district recei

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Inmate sues for religious services at Miami County prison BUNKER HILL – A Native American inmate is suing the Miami Correctional Facility for violating his constitutional religious freedom after the prison last year terminated Native American worship services. Daniel Littlepage says in a class action lawsui

    April 22, 2014

  • Police blotter: April 22, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 22, 2014

  • NWS-PT042214 Indiana Beach Viper.jpg Monticello amusement park brings new thrills MONTICELLO -- Indiana Beach's first major steel roller coaster -- the Galaxi -- is being retired after 42 years. Don Hurd operated the ride as a park employee 35 years ago. "At that time, it was one of the biggest coasters around," he said. "It's one

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Southeastern school board reopens its search for a principal at Lewis Cass WALTON -- Southeastern School Corp. officials thought they had found their new principal for Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. High School. The position was offered to a candidate, but he declined to accept it, Superintendent Trudie Hedrick reported to the school b

    April 22, 2014

  • No Headline Provided Guests will be able to climb into a carved-out pumpkin that will circle above Indiana Beach in one of the park's latest rides -- the Pumpkin Ferris Wheel.

    April 22, 2014

  • shelly maness Woman arrested in meth lab find MACY — A narcotics investigation led to the recent arrest of a Fulton County woman on several drug charges. Shelly Maness, 35, Macy, was arrested on two felony counts of dealing in methamphetamine, possession of meth, possession of an illegal drug la

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
More pharostribune.com
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

Yes
No
Undecided
     View Results
eEdition