When you have a criminal record, it can be hard to find someone to give you a second chance. Many states allow either expungement or record sealing to erase or hide your record, giving you that second chance. Historically, Indiana has allowed these procedures only in very limited cases and after often lengthy waiting periods. The state's laws are still very restrictive, but in 2013 it has moved toward allowing expungement for more people.
Are Expungement and Record Sealing the Same?
Not exactly. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but for the most part they have the same effect: Members of the public cannot see the records. In the strictest terms though, what happens to those records differs. When they are sealed, they are blocked from public view but law enforcement officials may have access. Expungement actually destroys the records, so there is no longer any possibility that anyone may see them.
What Records Are Eligible?
Indiana code allows expungement of arrest records when no charges were ever filed or when the charges were dropped for specific reasons.
Other records are eligible for limited disclosure, or sealing, but not expungement. This includes records of cases where:
- The charges were dismissed for reasons other than those eligible for expungement
- You were found not guilty
- Your conviction was vacated
The law requires a waiting period before you can file your petition.
You may also petition for limited disclosure of certain records pertaining to certain convictions when it has been more than 15 years since your probation, parole, or prison sentence ended. If granted, access to these records will be limited to criminal justice agencies.
Effective July 1, 2013, the law also allows expungement of certain misdemeanor convictions five or more years after completion of your sentence and some Class D felonies after eight years. Violent or sexual felonies cannot be expunged. You must also have stayed out of trouble during the waiting period.
How Do You File?
You must file a petition with the appropriate court. This can vary depending on the circumstances of your case. You may be required to file:
- Where the original charges were filed
- Where your trial was held
- In the court in the county where you were arrested, if you were never charged
Any agency holding records related to your arrest may oppose expungement, and the prosecuting attorney may oppose your petition for restricted disclosure.
The court does not have to grant your petition. It may also set a hearing to determine if specific reasons for denying it may exist. If expungement is granted, the court must either destroy or give to you all applicable records. If limited disclosure is granted, members of the general public may not view the records.
You may also apply for a pardon from the governor. This option does not expunge or seal any records. However, if granted, the pardon will be noted in your record. Not all government agencies necessarily recognize a pardon, so you may still be ineligible for certain privileges. You are not eligible for a pardon until five years have passed from the time you completed your sentence, including any time on parole or probation.
Getting Legal Advice
This article provides only a brief overview of the laws on the books at the time of its writing. For the most up-to-date information on Indiana's rules concerning expungement and record sealing and how they apply to your case, speak with a lawyer knowledgeable in these types of cases.
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