How to File an Indiana Petition for Expungement
In today’s world, a criminal record can have far-reaching impacts on one’s life, affecting everything from job opportunities to housing. In Indiana, however, there’s a beacon of hope for those seeking a fresh start, and it’s called expungement. Anyone with a criminal record in the Hoosier state may file an Indiana petition for expungement in an effort to seal their criminal records, thus allowing them to truly move forward from their criminal past.
This comprehensive guide will explain who is eligible to file an Indiana petition for expungement and then walk you through, step-by-step, the process of filing a request. However, it’s important to understand that, in practice, the process of expunging a criminal record can be rather complicated; especially if you’re hoping to expunge multiple records in different counties or petitioning for felony expungement in Indiana. Given this, it’s critical that you also speak an Indiana expungement attorney prior to beginning an expungement petition. This will ensure that all of your criminal records are being accounted for, and the petition(s) are being drafted and filed in a manner that is compliant with Indiana’s second chance law.
If you are interested in expunging your criminal record, Keffer Hirschauer LLP, a leading expungement law firm in Indianapolis, is here to help you. Our Indianapolis expungement lawyers have helped expunge thousands of criminal records, all throughout the state, and can ably guide you through the Indiana expungement process in a precise, yet timely manner.
Ready to start a new chapter in life? Call 317-751-7186 to speak with an expungement attorney today or complete our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation.
An Overview of Expungement in Indiana
Generally, expungement is the legal process of sealing a criminal record from public view. In Indiana, expungement can significantly impact your life, opening doors that might have been closed due to past convictions. It’s a second chance for many, allowing them to move forward without the burden of their past mistakes.
What are the Benefits of Expungement?
As many already understand, a criminal past can negatively affect a person’s life, even after they’ve successfully completed their sentence. It can impact their ability to obtain solid employment or professional licensure, secure much-needed financial assistance, or simply hinder them from finding quality housing. However, when a person’s Indiana petition for expungement has been granted by the court, they no longer need to disclose their criminal history in certain circumstances to other people; including loan officers, landlords, licensing organizations, or potential employers. On top of that, their criminal records will not show up on most publicly available criminal background checks. In other words, when asked, “have you ever been convicted of a felony offense?” a person whose record has been expunged may finally answer “no.”
In addition to the lifestyle benefits described above, convicted felons who successfully expunge their record in Indiana may be able to restore the civil liberties they lost as a result of their conviction. This includes the restoration of their Indiana gun rights, the ability to vote, serve on a jury, and/or run for elected office. It is important to note, however, that there are some limitations when it comes to gun rights. Per Indiana Code 35- 47-4-7, a person convicted under the domestic violence laws in Indiana is prohibited from possessing a firearm, even after being granted an expungement. Instead, they must petition the court for the restoration of their gun rights in a different, separate manner, and must wait five years from the date of their conviction to do so.
Who is Eligible for Expungement in Indiana?
Determining your eligibility is the first critical step in filing for an expungement in Indiana. The eligibility criteria vary depending on the nature and severity of the offense, as well as the time elapsed since the arrest, charge, or conviction. It’s important to note that some convictions, such as certain acts of official misconduct, homicide, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, are not eligible for expungement. Additionally, individuals classified as sex or violent offenders under Indiana law, or those with multiple non-related offenses involving deadly weapons, are also ineligible.
For cases where charges or arrests did not lead to a conviction, or if the conviction was overturned on appeal, you are eligible for expungement once a year has passed since the date of your arrest, and you meet the following criteria:
- Not actively participating in an Indiana pretrial diversion program
- No convictions in the year prior to seeking expungement
- No current, pending criminal charges
- Successful completion of all diversion program requirements
When it comes to expunging criminal conviction records in Indiana, understanding the waiting period and statutory conditions is the first step toward determining eligibility. As outlined in the Indiana Code 35-38-9, these waiting periods vary considerably, based on the severity of the crime.
Expungement Waiting Periods for Conviction Records
- Misdemeanors/Reduced Level 6 Felonies: 5 or more years since conviction
- Level 6 Felonies: 8 or more years since conviction
- Eligible Major Felonies: 8 or more years since conviction; or 3 years since the completion of sentence, whichever is later
- Eligible Serious Felonies: 10 or more years since conviction; or 5 years since the completion of sentence, whichever is later
If a person has satisfied the waiting period prescribed above, they may file an Indiana petition for expungement if they meet the requirements set forth in Indiana Code 35-38-9-3 through Indiana Code 35-38-9-5. Under these requirements, those who would like to have their Level 6 and Major Felony records expunged must no convictions in the 8 years prior to filing their petition; no pending criminal charges; successful payment of all fines, fees, court costs and restitution; and the successful payment of the expungement filing fee. For those seeking the expungement of an eligible serious felony, the requirements are largely the same, however these individuals must have no convictions in the 10 years prior to filing the petition AND must obtain written consent from the prosecutor on the case.
What are the Limits of Expungement?
The limits of expungement in Indiana are quite clear. Expunged records related to arrests, charges that didn’t result in a conviction, misdemeanor convictions, and Level 6 felony convictions are sealed and not available for public viewing. Expunged records related to major and serious felonies, on the other hand, are available for public viewing. However, as provided by Indiana Code 35-38-9-7, they must be clearly marked expunged and shall be treated as such by relevant parties.
It is important to understand that expunged records are still viewable by some parties, including law enforcement officers acting in the course of official duty. Other parties that, under certain conditions, may be granted access to expunged records include:
- a prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, or probation department under a court order
- the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security
- the Supreme Court and select individuals at the state board of law examiners
- a person required to access such records in compliance with the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act; the BMV; the Federal Motor Carrier Administration; or the Commercial Driver’s License Information System
Furthermore, if an expunged record is deemed relevant in a new prosecution of the petitioner, at any date in the future, the prosecuting attorney can seek to gain access to the records by submitting an application to the Court that granted the expungement. If the requested is deemed valid, those records shall be unsealed for the prosecutor to access. Ultimately, if those records are admitted as evidence in the new case against the person or used to enhance their sentence in a new prosecution, the court is not obligated to reseal the records. In contrast, if the records are not used in this manner, the Court is required to order them permanently resealed at the earlier possible time after the reasons for unsealing the records cease to exist.
How to File an Indiana Petition for Expungement
Generally, the steps of filing an Indiana petition for expungement are as follows: gather the relevant documents; obtain the necessary forms; complete the petition; file the petition with the court; attend the hearing (if applicable). While these steps may seem straightforward, they often are much more complicated than one anticipates. Indiana expungement law is detailed and complex, and the process of expungement becomes more difficult the more serious and numerous the records become. Therefore, in order to ensure that your expungement petition covers as much of your criminal history as possible and is in compliance with the requirements set forth in the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure, you’ll want to hire an experienced Indiana expungement lawyer.
Documents Relevant to an Indiana Petition for Expungement
The first step you’ll take in the process of sealing your criminal records is collecting all relevant documents and information required for your Indiana petition for expungement. Typically, this will include a complete record of your criminal history in Indiana, encompassing details like criminal cause numbers, citations, or arrest numbers. Obtaining these documents often involves liaising with the county clerk’s office where your conviction was recorded. Depending on the county, this step can range from straightforward to challenging, as procedures and responsiveness can vary.
Complete the Indiana Petition for Expungement Forms
In Indiana, expungement forms are typically available through the county clerk’s office or can be downloaded from the Indiana Judiciary website. These forms are crucial as they outline the specific information and format required by the court.
The expungement petition includes detailed sections for personal identification, criminal history, and affirmations regarding eligibility criteria. Per Indiana Code 35-38-9-8, the petition must include comprehensive personal and legal details. These details encompass:
- The petitioner’s full name and all other legal names or aliases by which the petitioner is or has been known
- The petitioner’s date of birth
- The petitioner’s addresses from the date of the offense to the date of the petition
- The petitioner’s Social Security number
- The petitioner’s driver’s license number
- The date on which the petitioner was convicted
- The date of the petitioner’s arrest, if applicable
- The date on which the petitioner was convicted
- The case number or court cause number, if available
- Affirmation that no criminal investigation or charges are pending against the petitioner
- Affirmation that the petitioner has not committed another felony or misdemeanor within the period required for expungement
- List of all convictions, all collateral actions, the cause number of each conviction, if known, the date of the conviction, and any appeals from the conviction and the date any appellate opinion was handed down, if applicable
- Affirmation that the required period has elapsed or attach a copy of the prosecuting attorney’s written consent to a shorter period
- Description of any other petitions that the petitioner has filed under this chapter
- Attached copy of the prosecuting attorney’s written consent, if applicable
- Any other information that the petitioner believes may assist the court
It’s important to understand that an Indiana expungement petition is valid for the request of expunging one record. This means that if you’d like to expunge multiple records in a single county, you’ll need to draft a petition for each record and file them together, all at once. Furthermore, if you’d like to expunge records in multiple different counties, you will need to file separate petitions in each individual county, all within a one-year period.
Filing the Indiana Petition for Expungement
Once you have gathered all necessary documents and completed the expungement petition forms, the next step you’ll take is finalize and review your petition. This step is where attention to detail is paramount. You’ll want to ensure that all the information provided is accurate and complete. Even minor errors or omissions can lead to delays or the denial of your petition, and remember, expungement in Indiana is a one-time deal. If your petition is denied, you cannot request expungement again.
After reviewing and ensuring that the petition is in order, you’ll proceed to submit your Indiana expungement petition to the appropriate court. This is usually the circuit or superior court in the county where the conviction occurred. When filing the petition, it’s crucial that you adhere to the court’s filing procedures, which may vary by county. The court staff can often provide guidance on these procedural aspects, as can many Indiana expungement attorneys.
When you file your Indiana petition for expungement, Indiana Code 35-38-9-8(e) also requires you to serve a copy of the petition to the prosecuting attorney’s office. This is an important step in the expungement process as it allows the prosecutor to review your petition and decide on their course of action – whether to object, consent, or request a hearing. The manner of serving the petition should align with the legal requirements set forth in the Indiana Rules for Trial Procedure, ensuring that the prosecutor is properly notified.
Possible Outcomes of an Expungement Request
Upon receiving an Indiana petition for expungement, the prosecutor has 30 days to review and respond to the request. Their response can include agreeing to the expungement, objecting to it, or requesting additional information. In some cases, they, or the court, may ask for a hearing to better understand the nuances of your case or if your petition raises particular concerns.
If the prosecutor objects to your petition, there’s no need to feel discouraged. This is not an outright denial, but instead, a regular step in the legal process. In the event of an objection, you may be required to attend a hearing where you can present your case and demonstrate why you believe an expungement of your record is justified. This is an opportunity to show how you have changed and why the expungement would positively impact your life.
Ultimately, if your expungement petition is granted, the court will issue an order directing that the criminal records identified in your petition be sealed or, in some situations, marked “expunged.”
Ready to File an Indiana Petition for Expungement?
There’s no need to waste your time googling “Expungement lawyers near me.” If you’re ready to file an Indiana petition for expungement, Keffer Hirschauer LLP stands ready to help you. As a leading Indiana expungement law firm, we understand all too well just how heavy the weight of a criminal record can be and take pride in helping Hoosiers move forward with their lives.
To determine expungement eligibility or discuss more complicated matters like restoring gun rights through expungement in Indiana, contact a member of our team today by calling 317-751-7186 or scheduling a free consultation using our online contact form. Our Indianapolis attorneys can answer any questions you have about record sealing and will work tirelessly towards a favorable resolution to your case.