Changes to Indiana’s Expungement Laws

Back in May of last year, Indiana House Bill 1541 was passed – marking a huge milestone for state legislation. Starting July 1, 2019, those who wished to file for expungement were given a better opportunity to work towards having a true second chance at life.

In Indiana, individuals with dismissed cases, misdemeanor convictions, and any with a class D felony conviction were eligible to have their cases expunged after a set number of years. This meant that the court could issue an order to state agencies who are in possession of such records to seal or redact any identifying personal information in those reports.  When background checks were requested for these individuals, the expunged cases would now not show up, allowing for them to have a better chance for a fresh start. The only exception was that the internal records held by law enforcement agencies, prosecutor’s offices, or probation departments would not require any corresponding changes. For people with a class C felony or above, the expunged records would show on a background check but would be considered a class C infraction.

With the passing of House Bill 1541, the situation changed in the favor of the petitioners. It didn’t necessarily make the process for requesting expungement any easier, nor did it change the rules for how long one had to wait before expungement. Instead, it allowed a wider range of petitioners to be considered for expungement. In addition, the bill changed the terms “expunge,” “seal,” and “redact,” to “destroy or permanently delete.”

This may prove to be a huge step in a positive direction. The bill allows all case levels to be eligible (except for sex and violent offenses), allowing many more to have a second chance at trying to put their past convictions behind them. Also, the courts are no longer able to consider expunged cases in their ruling for future criminal charges.

Even with these changes, there are certain sections that did not change. One of the parts that remained the same is the reporting of information by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to the Commercial Driver’s License Information System. This keeps the bill in accordance with federal law. Also, even with an expungement, there is no automatic restoration of firearms rights to those with domestic violence convictions.

While the law might open the door for fresh starts, there are some potential drawbacks. Unfortunately, this also can mean that prosecutors and judges will start to look at appeals much more closely than they have before. Any sort of leniency that was shown for early expungements may no longer apply. Since the expungement is now much more permanent, judges may feel that they have more responsibility and should show more strictness in making sure that the petitioner is deserving of the expungement. This can increase the risk of the expungement appeal being denied. In addition, this applies much more pressure on defense attorneys to step up their game. These attorneys may have to do more in order to ensure that they are able to convince the judges that their clients deserve the expungement.

Bear in mind that individual states approach expungements differently. Additionally, what the consequences are of a successful petition to expunge say, a DUI, will be different here in California than what they are in Illinois. For information on how an expungement in California might affect a California DUI conviction, see Can I Expunge a California DUI?.

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