Expungement or sealing one’s criminal background record can be an incredibly useful tool. Expungement is the process by which your criminal record is effectively, but not actually, erased. Your arrest record is removed from the records of the arresting authority and from the official records of the state police. Additionally, your name is taken off the index that the circuit court has to keep. Even further, your employers and law enforcement officials cannot see that you had a criminal record. Your physical and electronic records are not actually destroyed. Nevertheless, the effect is to hide your criminal past from others. This is an especially helpful tool for those with prior convictions.
Through expungement, the law is attempting to differentiate between habitual criminals and citizens who maybe just made a mistake. As anyone with a criminal record knows, the ramifications of committing or being convicted of a crime can last long after the court-ordered punishment is over. Is it really fair that a hardworking, honest person suffer for a mistake he made years ago?
Indiana expungement laws have undergone a few changes in the last few legislative sessions. There were several updates to the expungement rules in 2013 that were further modified in 2014. Although there are a lot of nuances and requirements to expunge your record, this is meant to give you an overview of the purpose and method of Indiana criminal record expungement under the new laws.
Here in Indiana, not every crime can be expunged. There are certain crimes that the Indiana State Legislature believes are too serious to ever be removed from someone’s record. The crimes that cannot be expunged are the kind of crimes that you would typically expect that our representatives believe other people deserve to know you committed in the past. Pursuant to the Indiana Code, the following people generally are not eligible for record expungement:
- An elected official convicted of an offense while serving his or her term or while as a candidate for public office;
- A person convicted of a felony that caused another person serious bodily injury;
- A person who committed a felony homicide offense;
- A person who was convicted of a sex crime;
- A violent offender; and
- A person convicted of official misconduct, which generally means an official that abuses his or her position as a public servant.
The requirements that must be met for a criminal record to be expunged vary based on the level of the crime. There are many levels of crime in Indiana. The levels are divided up based on the seriousness of offense. The two overarching categories of Indiana crime are misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies and within each group there are more and less serious offenses. The major difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is that a misdemeanor is never punishable by more than a year in prison.
The very first step to get any criminal record expunged is to wait. There is always a waiting period after you finish serving or completing your sentence before you are eligible for record expungement. In keeping with the varying levels of seriousness of crimes, the waiting period for serious crimes are longer than for less serious crimes. In that waiting period, you cannot be convicted of any other criminal activity. If you are, then your waiting period starts over.
Once you have satisfied the waiting period, then you have to fill out an application in accordance with the correct statute. The Indiana Code section pertaining to expungements is IC 35-38-9. If it is not filled out in perfect accordance with the statute, it can be rejected without a hearing. After your application is filed, the prosecutor may object. If so, there will be a hearing in which both sides present their case. Finally, a judge will determine if your record will be expunged.