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April 10, 2013

Criminal records expungement bill moves forward

A bill that would allow people with long-ago arrests and convictions to wipe clean their criminal record continues to move through the Indiana legislature with critical support from conservative Republicans.

The legislation, House Bill 1482, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-2 vote after it was amended to include some incentives for employers worried about the potential liability of hiring someone with a criminal record. Authors of the expungement bill say it will help remove some of the barriers that make it difficult for ex-offenders to find employment and access other opportunities.

“It’s for people who’ve cleaned up their act and want to get back into society,” said Rep. Jud McMillin, a former deputy prosecutor from Brookville who successfully carried the bill through the GOP-controlled House. The bill has the strong backing of Sen. Brent Steele of Bedford, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Mike Young of Indianapolis, chairman of the Senate Courts and Corrections Committee.

“I want to give people a second chance,” Young said.

Indiana currently has a criminal records “sealing” law that allows people with arrests or convictions for low-level, non-violent crimes to get a court order to shield that record from public view after a number of years have passed. But it only applies to certain misdemeanors and some D felonies.

The expungement bill goes further and covers higher-level felonies. There are limits: Most sex and violent crimes are excluded and persons seeking to have their record expunged have to show they’ve stayed out of trouble for a number of years. Prosecutors would have to sign off on the expungement for some higher-level crimes, and public officials who’ve committed a crime would have to meet a higher standard to have that crime expunged.

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