Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

June 4, 2013

New law could clear thousands of criminal records

BATESVILLE — 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 the 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
State News
  • Each day of Public Health Week has a focus

    April 7 kicks off the 19th annual observance of National Public Health Week in America.

    April 7, 2014

  • Trash Bash poised to start Mother Nature has been relentless this winter and snow is finally beginning to melt. That means it's time to begin spring cleaning of Hoosier highways and byways. The Indiana Department of Transportation's annual Trash Bash is slated from April 5-27

    April 1, 2014

  • Home renters need to avoid scams A rental scam utilizing Craigslist has reared its ugly head once again in central Indiana and Indiana State Police warn citizens to be mindful of their dealings. On Feb. 21, a Plainfield resident answered a Craigslist posting for a rental home in Nob

    March 25, 2014

  • Changed wording delays debate on right to hunt, fish INDIANAPOLIS - A much-debated ban on same-sex marriage wasn't the only proposed constitutional amendment to get knocked off this November's ballot. Gone, too, is the less contentious proposal to protect Hoosiers' right to hunt and fish. Backers of th

    March 18, 2014

  • nws - bv031814 - Loughmiller Bar Owner Old ban on beer booze level may be tapped out INDIANAPOLIS - Loughmiller's Pub across from the Statehouse is a favorite hangout for legislators and lobbyists who like the tavern's menu of gourmet burgers and craft beers. State police are regular lunch customers, as are state officials who regula

    March 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • nws - bv030714 - arts advocacy day Kuehl will advocate for the arts in D.C. Jeff Kuehl, Columbus Area Arts Council regional services director, has been selected to serve as Indiana state captain at National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., said Arthur Smith, CAAC marketing and media director. Kuehl will lead a delegati

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Closing in on a way to help schools INDIANAPOLIS -- Legislators are closing in on a way to help some school districts that stand to lose millions of dollars in transportation funds. A proposal in a school debt service bill essentially stalls for three years a law that requires schools

    March 7, 2014

  • Frye honored for natural gas efforts State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) was honored with a stakeholder award for outstanding leadership in the advancement of natural gas fueling infrastructure at the 11th annual Legislative Luncheon and American Fuels and Technologies Expo Feb. 4 at t

    March 4, 2014

  • Daniels making the transition WEST LAFAYETTE -- Mitch Daniels still occasionally gets called "governor" in deference to the eight years he spent as Indiana's chief executive. Thirteen months after leaving office, the old title is the exception to his honorific as Purdue Universit

    February 28, 2014

  • Business leaders see early education as economic investment INDIANAPOLIS - The state won't pay to send poor children to preschool anytime soon but business leaders and key Republicans say they plan to keep pushing for the program. An effort backed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and United Way has been lo

    February 28, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Seasonal Content
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
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.
Facebook