Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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April 10, 2013

Criminal records expungement bill moves forward

(Continued)

Under the current version of the bill, a person who was arrested but not convicted can have the record expunged within one year after that arrest. Someone with a misdemeanor conviction can have that record expunged within five years after that conviction. Someone with a non-violent class D felony can have that record cleared eight years after the conviction. Persons with higher-level felonies must wait eight after their sentence is over to apply to have the record expunged.

The legislation also gives prosecutors and judges more discretion in granting those expungement requests. Those same conditions apply to someone convicted of official misconduct or perjury.

There are some crimes that can’t be wiped clean under the bill, such as murder or incest.

The bill also includes other provisions: Crime victims have an opportunity to object to the record expugement in some cases, and prosecutors will still have access to criminal records that have been expunged from court records.

Another key element of the bill: A potential employer can only ask a job applicant if they’ve been arrested or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged by a court. The bill also makes it an infraction for an employer to discriminate against someone who’s had an arrest or conviction expunged. But it also protects employers from being sued if they hire someone who’s had their record expunged, but subsequently commits another crime.

Republican Sen. Randy Head of Logansport voted against the bill.

“Employers have a right to know who they’re hiring,” Head said.

But bill supporters say employers too often automatically reject a job applicant with an arrest or criminal conviction without knowing the circumstances.

Andrew Cullen, legislative liaison for the Indiana Public Defender Council, said the legislation has the potential to help thousands of ex-offenders who’ve turned their lives around but face closed doors when it comes to employment.

In speaking in support of the bill, Cullen cited the state constitution’s call for restorative justice: “This bill says: ‘If you successfully take part in the reformation process, you will no longer be labeled a criminal by the state of Indiana.’”

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