There are two approaches to cleaning up your criminal record in the state of Indiana, so you must first understand the difference between them and determine which laws apply to your situation.
In Indiana, only records of arrests can be expunged. A person may not expunge actual convictions. However, if you were actually convicted of a criminal offense, Indiana offers a form of “expungement” that is more like record sealing. This means that the documents are not actually destroyed, but they are sealed so that no one can see them, with a few limited exceptions under special circumstances.
The first step to expunging a record is to determine what type of expungement you qualify for.
Expungement is the process of completely erasing your criminal record. General eligibility rules include:
- You were arrested and charged, but the charges were dropped due to:
- mistaken identity;
- an offense was never actually committed;
- the court lacked probable cause;
- You were arrested, but not charged with a crime;
- You received a judicial pardon;
- Your case was dismissed;
- You are having juvenile records expunged;
- You do not have any records of arrest except for minor traffic violations; and/or
- You do not have any other pending criminal charges.
If you qualify, you may file a petition for expungement one year after the date of the initial arrest. If you do not qualify for full expungement, you may be eligible to have your records sealed.
When your records are sealed access to your criminal history may be limited or sealed if it has been more than 15 years since your release from prison/parole or probation. Sealing prevents non-criminal justice entities from viewing your criminal history.
You may be eligible to have your records sealed if:
- You were arrested, but have not been charged with a crime within 30 days afterward; or
- You were acquitted of all charges filed against you.
If you have a successful petition, the court must seal all documents related to your case and prevent any access. Additionally, a court order will be required in order to gain access to the records. Lastly, all of your civil rights will be restored.
There are many steps involved with the process of expungement, and it is important to that every step is followed precisely. The specifics will depend on the details of your case, but you initiate the process by filing a petition establishing that you are eligible to have your record expunged.
Keep in mind that the burden of proof depends on the severity of the felony. Your petition must establish that you are entitled to expungement or sealing by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard can make expunging these types of offenses more difficult.
First, you must file the petition for expungement with the court where the criminal charges were filed. This includes submitting copies to the law enforcement agency that arrested you and the prosecuting attorney. Additionally, you must provide copies to the repository for records located in the Indiana Government Center.
Next, once the petition is filed, the agencies and law enforcement personnel have 30 days to file an opposition to your petition. Law enforcement agencies are also allowed to submit sworn statements from personnel who have objections. If there was a victim involved with your crime, the victim may also provide the court with a statement, but the judge will ultimately decide whether the information is relevant to your case.
Finally, a hearing in conducted and a judge concludes whether you are eligible for expungement.
There are many significant advantages to expunging a felony conviction, especially considering the implications of recent changes in the law. Below is a list of some of the benefits you may enjoy after an expungement or sealed records.
- Your conviction no longer shows up on standard background checks, which helps open up your employment opportunities or eligibility for credit;
- If you hold any professional licenses that were suspended or revoked due to your felony conviction, they may be lifted and restored;
- Convicted felons are not allowed to own firearms, but you can restore your Second Amendment right to own firearms;
- You can keep any scholarship or educational assistance, that you could lost or did not qualify for because of a conviction on your record; and
- You will no longer live with the stigma that accompanies having a criminal record.
If you have a conviction that qualifies for expungement and want to initiate the process, it would be highly advisable to retain an experienced criminal attorney. They can advise you of your legal rights and help you file the necessary paperwork for your petition.
Typically, you only get one chance to petition and it is vital to ensure there are not any mistakes or inconsistencies with your paperwork. Please contact a local Indiana criminal defense lawyer, or specifically an Indiana attorney who specializes in expungement, for further assistance.