Your criminal record does not have to follow you forever. The process of sealing your record can open the door to new possibilities for work, licensing, housing, loans, and more. However, the process, called expungement, is more complex than merely making a written request. Under Indiana expungement law, the waiting period and potential necessity to file in multiple courts simultaneously—plus the fact that you only get one chance at expungement in Indiana—make getting it right the first time imperative.
Throughout the state, people call Keffer Hirschauer LLP when they need experienced expungement lawyers in Indiana. We help clients across the state understand the Indiana expungement statute and guide them throughout the process of wiping the slate clean.
An Overview of Indiana Expungement Law
The first step to understanding Indiana expungement law is understanding exactly what expungement does. Many incorrectly believe expungement erases your criminal past completely, but expungement does not go quite that far. In some cases, expungement seals records from public view. In others, the records are still publicly visible but are marked as “expunged.” Whether the records are sealed or merely marked expunged, they still exist for legitimate law enforcement purposes.
In general, expungement is the legal process of asking the courts and other agencies that hold those records to seal them from public access. If you have arrests, charges, or convictions in different Indiana counties, you would need to file in every such court. The process of criminal record expungement involves a waiting period after conviction, and it has a deadline—you have one year from the time you begin the expungement process to file all of the petitions for expungement. Further, obtaining an expungement is not necessarily a given, and, if your request is granted, it may come with additional conditions.
Collecting the necessary records and coordinating efforts across all necessary counties and agencies can be time-consuming, and compliance with all of the Indiana expungement law requirements is mandatory. From its vast experience with expungement cases, Keffer Hirschauer LLP has put together the following primer on what kinds of records can be expunged and how the process works.
Criminal Record Expungement: What Records Can Be Expunged?
Court and law enforcement records about you can have serious impacts on your life—even if you were never convicted of a crime. If you do have criminal convictions, the impacts are more obvious and can be even greater. The path to a clean record starts with identifying all of the records that can be expunged.
In general, the following types of records are eligible for expungement:
- Criminal charges
- Criminal convictions
- Delinquency adjudications
- Civil forfeitures
- Post-conviction proceedings
These records may be located in any one of the following places:
- Trial courts
- Appellate courts
- Law enforcement agencies
- Indiana repository for criminal history
- Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles
- Indiana Department of Correction
Indiana expungement law allows the sealing of records regarding most misdemeanors and felonies—with some exceptions, as described below. While the process is generally the same for different offenses, the waiting period following an arrest, charge, or conviction may vary depending on the severity of the offense.
Expungement of Non-Conviction Records
Indiana expungement law treats non-conviction records differently than records of conviction. These records include arrests, criminal charges, and juvenile delinquency adjudications.
One year from the date of your arrest, charge, or juvenile delinquency adjudication, you may file a petition to have your criminal record expunged and sealed if either of the following applies:
- You were arrested but not convicted of a crime
- You were convicted but the conviction was later vacated
Your arrest, charge, or conviction for certain criminal offenses may also have resulted in the inclusion of your DNA profile in the Indiana DNA database established under Indiana Code chapter 10-13-6. Profiles in the Indiana DNA database are also included in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national database used by law enforcement in investigating crimes.
Although not part of an expungement statute, Indiana Code § 10-13-6-18 allows you to request removal of your DNA profile from the Indiana DNA database if your conviction was reversed and the case was dismissed or, alternatively, if you were arrested for one or more felonies and one of the following applies:
- You were acquitted of all felony charges or, alternatively, all felony charges were converted to misdemeanors
- All of the charges against you were dismissed
- At least one year has passed since your arrest and no charges have been filed against you arising from that arrest
Expungement of Conviction Records
Convicted individuals may be eligible to expunge (or seal) their criminal record of convictions, although Indiana expungement law treats expungement differently depending on the seriousness of the offense. You may request to have criminal records of misdemeanors and lower-level felonies (Class D or Level 6 felonies) reduced to misdemeanors expunged if all of the following apply:
- At least five years have passed since the date of your conviction
- You have had no new convictions in that time period
- You have no pending criminal charges
- You have paid all restitution orders, fines, fees, and court costs
- You have paid an expungement fee
Convictions for many misdemeanors and Class D or Level 6 felonies, including Class D/Level 6 felonies that were reduced to misdemeanors, may be expunged and sealed in most cases. If you were convicted of such a misdemeanor, a Class D/Level 6 felony that was reduced to a misdemeanor, a Class D/Level 6 felony, or any other felony, you may petition to expunge and seal the related criminal record if:
- You have not been convicted of two or more separate felonies involving a deadly weapon
- You did not commit a violent crime or a sex offense
- You have no pending charges
- You have paid all fines, fees, court costs, or restitution
- You do not have any new convictions
Individuals convicted of a misdemeanor or Class D/Level 6 felony that was reduced to a misdemeanor must wait five years from the date of the conviction before applying for expungement. Individuals convicted of a Class D/Level 6 felony and most other felony convictions must wait eight years from the date of conviction or three years after the completion of the sentence before petitioning for expungement.
If the conviction involved a felony that resulted in serious bodily injury, or if the individual was serving as an elected official or was a candidate for public office when convicted, the waiting period to consider expungement is extended to ten years from the date of conviction or five years after completion of the sentence.
Certain Offenses Not Eligible for Criminal Record Expungement
Indiana expungement law does not allow expungement of all criminal offenses. Some offenses are considered too serious to allow the passage of time and a subsequently clean record to be the basis for erasing records of a criminal past. As a result, regardless of the level of the offense, the criminal records regarding the following offenses are not eligible for expungement in Indiana:
- Offenses involving homicide, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter
- Convictions for two or more offenses involving the use of a deadly weapon that were not committed as part of the same episode of criminal conduct
- Offenses involving sex or violent offender status under Indiana Code § 11-8-8-5
- Offenses involving official misconduct under Indiana Code § 35-44.1-1-1
If you have a criminal record that includes any of these offenses, you do not have a direct route to expungement. However, in some cases, an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to develop a larger strategy to clean up your record in a way that ultimately makes expungement a possibility.
Generally, a court order is required to view sealed records. However, records of more serious felony convictions remain public even after expungement, though they are clearly marked as having been expunged.
How to Expunge Criminal History in Indiana
One of the key parts of your expungement strategy is determining when to start. As noted above, Indiana expungement law establishes a waiting period after conviction and completion of your sentence. However, you may seek expungement of Indiana criminal records only once. Although you may request expungement of criminal records in multiple counties at once, you must make all of your expungement requests within one year of the date you filed the first one.
In Indiana, a petition for expungement must be filed at the county level. For instance, if you were arrested in Indianapolis, you would need to file a petition for expungement case in Marion County. Every petition for expungement must also be copied on the local prosecutor, so, in this example, you would also need to serve a copy of the petition and all accompanying documentation on the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office within 30 days of the date you filed it with the court.
In addition, if the criminal records to be sealed or expunged involve a higher-class felony, expungement is discretionary, meaning the court is not required to grant the expungement request. In such cases, if there is a victim involved, the alleged victim must also be notified and given an opportunity to respond.
In all expungement matters, the burden of proof is on the individual requesting expungement to provide evidence of rehabilitation, positive moral character, and general good behavior in the community.
The Importance of Experience with Indiana Expungement Law
Although a chapter of Indiana criminal law sets out the majority of the expungement provisions, there is no single Indiana expungement statute. Effective expungement practitioners must be familiar with the various expungement provisions scattered around the Indiana Code and how to create a strategy most likely to help clear the client’s record.
For expungement lawyers in Indiana, you’ll find experienced and skilled criminal defense strategists at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. By following changes in Indiana expungement law and arguing for expansive interpretations that favor their clients, our attorneys are ideally suited to helping you clear your name. To learn more about how we can help give you a new beginning, call (317) 857-016 or complete our online contact form for a free consultation.
Contact us at Keffer Hirschauer LLP today to schedule a free consultation!