Indiana Expungement Laws: Broadly and Generously Applied

Most people who’ve been found guilty of a crime continue to feel the consequences of their conviction for years to come—usually in the form of missed job opportunities. If you’re in this position, it may have occurred to you that your punishment seems to be continuing long after your formal debt to society has been paid. The good news is, you probably don’t have to live this way. Indiana’s expungement statutes can likely provide you with some relief. The law asserts that a “person whose record is expunged shall be treated as if the person had never been convicted of the offense.”

Happiness is a clean record.

To successfully file for an expungement in Indiana, you’re statutorily required to show four things: 1) that the required amount of time (five years for most misdemeanors; eight years for most Level 6 felonies) has elapsed since the conviction you’re trying to expunge; 2) that you have no pending criminal charges; 3) that you’re paid up on fines, fees, and court costs; and 4) that you haven’t had any subsequent criminal convictions. This law is being liberally construed in favor of petitioners, even in the face of prosecutorial pushback. A recent decision from the Indiana Court of Appeals reaffirmed the State’s commitment to offering people a second chance.

In 1976, a man pled guilty to a felony. The trial court imposed a sentence of one-to-five years and waived the criminal fine. Thirty-eight years later, the man sought to have his conviction expunged. The Prosecutor objected, citing unpaid court costs. The trial court agreed, asserting that the man owed the court $37 and had failed to prove he had paid it. The man’s expungement petition was denied.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning, holding that the “handwritten scrawl of indeterminate origin” found on the sentencing order constituted “insufficient evidence that the trial court imposed court costs or that such court costs remain unpaid.” The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court’s ruling was “clearly against the logic, facts, and circumstances presented” in the case and reversed the denial of the man’s expungement petition. The message was clear: Bad-faith attempts to block expungements will earn you a slap.

To be eligible for an expungement, you must meet certain requirements, and every rule has its exceptions. To discuss your criminal history and your future options in greater detail, contact the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642. Don’t let your second chance pass you by.