Everyone likes a story of a second chance, where a person who has made a mistake is able to pick up the pieces of their life and turn it into something better. Unfortunately, the truth is that Indiana’s criminal justice system makes this kind of second act very difficult for a lot of people.
If you have been convicted of a crime, even after you have paid any fines or served your time behind bars, you will find your record can follow you around. Every time you apply for a job, you may face the question of whether you have ever been convicted of a crime. You may also get this question when trying to find a place to live or to take out a much-needed loan. This is certainly true for people who have been convicted on felony charges, but it can also be true of people who have been convicted of relatively minor, nonviolent crimes that are prosecuted as misdemeanors.
One way to limit the damage is through expungement.
What is expungement?
Expungement is a legal process in which a criminal record can be destroyed or sealed. This can mean that a past arrest or conviction and its court records won’t show up in some background searches. For many people this may mean the difference between getting a job offer and getting a rejection.
However, it’s important to note that the power of expungement is limited. Only some types of charges are eligible, and only under some conditions. Furthermore, expungement may seal your court records, but it doesn’t eliminate every record of your charges from the Internet or elsewhere. People conducting a background check may be able to find records of your conviction from somewhere.
Every state has its own laws and processes to deal with expungement. Indiana law allows for a type of expungement that eliminates records of arrest or conviction under certain circumstances. If successful, the petitioner can have the court seal most official records of their criminal case.
Indiana law has a long list of eligibility requirements for expungement, covering both the petitioner and the charges at issue. Generally, the law makes expungement easier for juvenile offenders and harder for adults. Expungement is not available for adults who were convicted of violent crimes, sex crimes, crimes involving the use of a deadly weapon, and in other circumstances.
Learn about your options
Expungement isn’t the perfect fix if you want a clean slate on which to rewrite the story of your life, but if you are eligible for the process, you may find that it helps you in many ways. A skilled Indiana attorney with experience in post-conviction relief can walk you through the process and help you decide if expungement is right for you.