By Maureen Hayden
CNHI Statehouse Bureau
Legislation that would allow more people the opportunity to erase their criminal records if they could show they’d redeemed themselves recently passed a critical vote.
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee voted to send the bill on to the full House, after hearing testimony from ex-offenders who said their long-ago convictions made it hard for them to find work and access other opportunities often denied to people with a record.
Among them was 66-year-old Bob Wilson of Indianapolis, who said he’s been out of prison and out of trouble since 1973, after serving time for a robbery he committed when he was 19.
“My question is: When do you stop being an ex-con?” Wilson said. “I’ve been out for 40 years and done everything expected of me.”
Under the legislation, authored by Republican state Rep. Jud McMillin of Brookville, persons with long-ago arrests or convictions could petition a judge to expunge their records if they meet certain conditions.
Indiana currently has a criminal records “sealing” law that allows people with long ago, low-level arrests or convictions to get a court order to shield that record from public view. But it only applies to certain misdemeanors and class D felonies.
The expungement bill goes further: It allows judges to expunge — or virtually erase — some class B and class C felonies from the records. Arrest and conviction records that are eligible to be sealed under the current law would also be eligible to be expunged.
But there are limits. There is a waiting period of at least five years after a sentence is completed; violent crimes and sex crimes couldn’t be expunged; and the person seeking the expungement would have to show they’d stayed out of trouble.