Expunction, also known as “expungement,” is a legal process through which people with criminal records can make those records inaccessible to the public, i.e., cleared or sealed.
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 applies to your situation:
- First, you should know that only arrest records can truly be expunged (destroyed and thus made invisible to the public). A person may not expunge actual convictions.
- Second, if you were convicted of a criminal offense, Indiana does offer a form of “expungement” that is more like record sealing. This means that the documents are not destroyed, but they are sealed so that no one can see them, with limited exceptions and only under special circumstances. This is not a true “expungement,” but that word is used anyway.
When a record is sealed, only a court order can open it. On the other hand, when a record is expunged, then it disappears from all public records. That includes any documents, fingerprints, arrest reports, or mug shots that are part of the record. Electronic records are also erased.
There is no constitutional right to have a criminal record expunged. It is a matter of state law. In states where it is available, it is available only on a limited basis. People seeking to expunge records must meet certain qualifications and follow certain procedures. As expungement is a privilege, most states only allow it if the person with the record can show that they have effectively been rehabilitated and have reentered society.
Expungement is not available for all types of crimes. It is not available in all circumstances. On the contrary, it is usually only available in limited circumstances.
In almost every state that allows expungement, what is cleared or sealed is limited. Expungement is usually not available for serious or violent crimes. Additionally, if a person is required to register as a sex offender due to a conviction, expungement does not clear away that requirement.
Do I Qualify for Expungement or Record-Sealing in Indiana?
Expungement is the process of completely erasing your criminal record. If you qualify, you may file a petition for expungement one year after the date of the initial arrest. General eligibility rules include:
- You were arrested and charged, but the charges were dropped due to:
- It was a case of mistaken identity
- It was determined that an offense was never actually committed
- The court lacked probable cause
- You were arrested, but you were not charged with a crime
- You received a judicial pardon
- Your case was dismissed
- You are seeking to have juvenile records expunged
- You do not have any records of arrest except for minor traffic violations
- You do not have any other pending criminal charges
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 people outside the criminal justice system 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 casual access to anybody. A court order will be required to gain access to the records. All of your civil rights will be restored.
What is the Procedure for Expunging a Conviction in Indiana?
There are many steps involved with the process of expungement, and it is important 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.
Remember that the burden of proof depends on the severity of the crime. Your petition must establish that you are entitled to expungement or sealing by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the evidence of your qualifications for expungement tips the scales in your favor, showing that it is more probable than not that your claim is true.
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 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 can also submit sworn statements from personnel who have objections to your request for record sealing. If there was a victim involved with your crime, the victim may also provide the court with a statement by writing to the court or testifying at a hearing,
Finally, a hearing is conducted, and a judge concludes whether you are eligible for expungement or record-sealing.
What Are The Benefits of Felony Expungement?
There are many significant advantages to expunging a felony conviction. Below is a list of some of the benefits you may enjoy after an expungement or sealing of the records.
- Your conviction no longer shows up on standard background checks, which helps open up your employment opportunities or eligibility for credit
- Generally, you can legally deny ever being convicted of a crime in almost any situation. If you are looking for a job and are asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you can legally say that you have never been convicted.
- However, there are exceptions to this rule: certain jobs require a person to disclose even those convictions that have been expunged. Such jobs might involve caring for children, certain government jobs, and the like.
- If you hold any professional licenses that were suspended or revoked due to your felony conviction, suspension or revocation may be lifted, and the licenses restored
- Convicted felons are not allowed to own firearms, but an expungement or sealing of the records can restore your Second Amendment right to own firearms
- You can now keep any scholarship or educational assistance that you lost or did not qualify for because of a conviction on your record
- You will no longer live with the stigma that accompanies having a criminal record
Do I Need an Attorney to Expunge My Criminal Record in Indiana?
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 so it is vital to ensure there are not any mistakes or inconsistencies in your paperwork. Please contact a local Indiana expungement lawyer for further assistance.