Let’s say you have one little criminal conviction plaguing you and stopping you from getting the job you want, getting the keys to the apartment you know would be a perfect fit, or getting into a school to brighten your future. You know you’re not a career criminal, just someone who made a mistake long ago. Maybe you had that second jumbo margarita and got an OWI on your drive home. Maybe you had some issues with your driver’s license and got convicted of driving while suspended. The Indiana legislature has heard your plight and has crafted some legislation to help you out.
The law currently states that a person described above can potentially have their record sealed. This means that if the person fits the statutory criteria, they can petition the Court seal their criminal conviction and not allow anybody but law enforcement to see that they have a prior conviction.
The law states that any person who fits the following criteria can have their record sealed:
1) They have been convicted of a Class D Felony or any misdemeanor which did not result in an injury to another person
2) At least 8 years have passed since the person’s sentence ended. This means that that time has passed since they have paid all fines, served all prison time, successfully completed probation, or finished up a home detention sentence.
3) That the person is not a sex offender, except in some limited circumstances.
4) That the person has not been convicted of a felony since the person fully completed their sentence.
In order to start this process, you must file a petition with the Court and pay a filing fee of approximately $160.00. Notice will be sent to the prosecutor, but if the statutory criteria are met, he/she is not going to be able to object to the sealing of the record. Once the Court finds that all of the criteria listed above are met, the Court will order the person’s record to be sealed. Notice of the Court’s order should be sent to the probation department, the clerk of the Circuit Court, and any other person that you could possibly imagine that could have access to or a reason to publish the criminal record. There are many background checking services that could have your criminal record, and it is best to try to send notice of the Court’s order to as many of those as humanly possible.
Now, here’s the most interesting part of this entire process. Per the statute, a person who has successfully petitioned the Court to seal a record can truthfully/legally represent “on an application for employment or any other document” that they have never been convicted of that offense. Also, an employer is not allowed to ask if you have ever had a criminal record sealed.
Now, this is a fairly new law and has as yet unforeseen issues in the practical application in the Courts and keeping people from publishing a sealed record. If you think that this statute may apply to you and be able to help you with your situation, you should contact a defense attorney to discuss your individual case. There have been discussion in the legislative realm about overhauling this law, so if you think this could apply to you and help you out, you should contact a defense attorney sooner rather than later.
UPDATE: Effective July 1 of this year, the provisions of this law have been changed. Now, the time limitation has been changed from 8 years from the end of the sentence to 5 years from date of conviction for misdemeanors and 8 years for non-violent D felonies. Also, the term is no longer “sealed”, but “expunged”, meaning that you will not be lying to employers when you say you don’t have a conviction. This can only be used once in a person’s lifetime, but is a very useful tool in getting past the mistakes of your past.
This article is published for information purposes only. It is not intended nor is it to be used as a substitute for independent legal advice.