Earlier this summer, I wrote about the 2013 expungement laws. For those
who haven't heard, Indiana passed several new laws that provide people
arrested and/or convicted of criminal offenses to, in some cases, permanently
seal those records.
The new statutes raise some interesting questions, many of which don't
have just one answer. Listed below are a few responses to some questions
about the new expungement laws.
Q: Can I get my old misdemeanor convictions for battery, operating while
intoxicated and disorderly conduct expunged?
A: Maybe. Misdemeanor offenses qualify as long as (1) at least five years
have elapsed from the time of the person's last conviction; (2) the
person has no pending cases or active driver license suspensions; and
(3) the person can prove that he successfully completed his sentence (probation,
restitution, etc.). A person who submits a petition that complies with
the requirements of the statute and can prove all of the above should
Q: What happens if the court grants my petition?
A: A few things occur. A person who has misdemeanors or Class D felonies
expunged should expect the court to issue an order prohibiting the Department
of Correction, BMV, law enforcement agencies and others involved from
releasing records to anyone other than another law enforcement agency.
The court is also required to notify the central repository for criminal
history maintained by the state police to seal the person's expunged
criminal history. Prospective employers will have no access to some criminal
histories and they are prohibited from asking about expunged convictions.
The new law further provides that a person whose conviction has been expunged
shall have a restored right to vote, serve as a juror and, possibly, own
or possess a firearm.
Q: Does anyone have access to my official records once they are sealed?
A: Yes. Under the scenarios above, a prosecuting attorney, the FBI and
Department of Homeland Security can obtain those records. A prosecuting
attorney can petition a court to gain access to an expunged record if,
for example, the prosecutor needs those records for a new prosecution
of the person.
Q: Are all expungement orders the same under the new law?
A: No. A court's expungement order will be more far impactful for misdemeanors
than it will be for serious felonies. For example, a person who successfully
petitions for the expungement of his serious felony conviction will not
be able to restrict those records from public view. However, the records
would be marked as "expunged."
Q: Can a person petition for expungement in more than one county in Indiana?
A: Yes. If the person with convictions in more than one Indiana county
wants all of his convictions expunged, he must file petitions in each
county in which he was convicted. The law states that a person may file
only one expungement petition "during the petitioner's lifetime."
Petitions filed in separate counties for crimes committed in those counties
count as one petition as long as they are filed within a one year period.
A person whose petition is denied "on the merits, in whole or in
part," must wait at least three years from the date of the denial
before petitioning the court again. Also, any subsequent petition may
not include a conviction that was not included in the original petition.
So, if you are going to petition for expungement, make sure you provide
your attorney with all of the necessary information about your past.
You aren't alone if you're not sure what this all means. But, now
is a good time to learn if you or someone you care about can clean up
an old criminal history.