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 be successful.
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.