Proposed Bill Will Greatly Improve Indiana Expungement Law

Indiana House Bill 1155, which improves Indiana’s expungement law that went into effect last summer, has passed the Indiana Legislature and is awaiting approval from Governor Mike Pence. HB 1155 gives individuals who petition for an expungement the opportunity to correct the form if they made a mistake on the petition. The bill also changes who will have access to expunged records, as well as the waiting periods for some felony convictions.

Last year Indiana passed the expungement law, known as the Second Chance Law, which allows expungement of certain convictions. The passage of that law was welcome news for former offenders in Indiana; but it is also a very complex law, and several problems arose in the months after it went into effect.

House Bill 1155 is intended to make several improvements to the law to ensure former offenders get the second chance they deserve. State Representative Jud McMillan, co-author of the bill, has explained that HB 1155 was drafted and proposed “to update and amend the Indiana Code to address several inconsistencies as well as make the overall process run more smoothly.”

Indiana’s expungement statute provides that if an expungement petition is denied, there is a three-year waiting period to reapply. Because under Indiana’s current expungement law an individual is only allowed one expungement in a lifetime, making a small mistake on the petition could be devastating for the individual. HB 1155 would allow the petitioner to submit a subsequent petition to include an additional conviction that was not included in the first filing if certain conditions, indicating the omission was made in good faith, are satisfied. Additionally, with the passage of HB 1155, the three-year waiting period to reapply will only apply to felony conviction expungements (excluding Class D felonies) that were denied due to the court’s exercise of its discretion.

The final version of HB 1155 also changes the waiting periods for some felony convictions. The current waiting period for those convicted of a felony offense that resulted in serious bodily injury or was committed while serving as an elected public official is ten years after completion of the sentence. HB 1155 changes the period to ten years after conviction or five years after completion of the sentence, whichever is later. The current waiting period for most other felonies is eight years after completion of the sentence. Under this bill that waiting period is amended to eight years after conviction or three years after completion of the sentence, whichever is later.

HB 1155 passed the House and was referred to the Senate on January 23, 2014. The Senate made amendments and passed the amended version on March 4. On March 6, the House voted on and concurred with the Senate’s amendments. If signed, the bill would become effective immediately upon passage.

Significant Changes to the Expungement Law Under HB 1155:

– Allows a petitioner to file a subsequent petition for a conviction not included in the original petition under certain circumstances.
– Removes the prohibition on a fee waiver or reduction for an indigent person.
– Prohibits a defendant from waiving the right to an expungement as part of a plea agreement.
– Lowers the burden of proof. The Court must find by a preponderance of the evidence, instead of by clear and convincing evidence, that all the requirements of expungement have been met.
– Grants the state board of law examiners access to expunged records to determine a person’s fitness for admission to the bar. Also grants a defense attorney and probation department access to expunged records, if authorized by court order.
– Changes the waiting period for some felony convictions.
– Specifies that expungement of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence does not restore firearm rights; an individual must go through the firearm rights restoration process provided in IC 35-47-4-7.
– Specifies that the petition to expunge a conviction may be filed in any circuit or superior court in the county of conviction, as opposed to the specific court of conviction.
– Removes inconsistent language in the current law regarding the arrest record expungement procedure.

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    • Under this bill, you would still need to have completed probation before you can petition for an expungement in Indiana. But it does not necessarily preclude people who did not receive probation as part of their sentence, but rather were incarcerated and later released. You must have completed the terms of your sentence, regardless of what that sentence was.

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