Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

February 14, 2014

Finding it is easier to erase history

INDIANAPOLIS – Residents with a criminal record may find it easier to erase that history under a measure making its way through the Legislature.

A bill passed recently by the House would loosen restrictions in the state’s “Second Chance” law, which took effect last summer, to make it easier for ex-offenders to find employment. The new measure simplifies the process for requesting that records be erased, and it waives court fees for indigent applicants.

Those who stand to benefit most are people with an old arrest or conviction for a low-level, non-violent crime in their past.

“It’s still not easy to get a criminal record erased,” said state Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, the bill’s co-author. “But this removes some of the unintended obstacles created by the current law.”

Last year the General Assembly passed the state’s first-ever expungement law for convictions of multiple types of offenses. The bill’s passage came after more than a decade of debate on the issue.

Limits remain on what can be erased from criminal records, which generally are open to public view. For example, most sex and violent crimes are not eligible.

People seeking to have records expunged must show they’ve stayed out of trouble for a number of years. In general, the more serious the offense, the longer an offender’s record must be clean.

Under last year’s law, an employer can only ask applicants if they’ve been arrested or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged by a court. The law protects employers from being sued if they hire someone who’s had their record expunged but subsequently commits another crime.

The new measure would remove what McMillin calls “poison pill” language that punishes people for making mistakes on their expungement applications.

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