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Forgiveness for ex-offenders? Indiana expungement bill proposed

A criminal record, particularly one that involves minor offenses, shouldn't forever be a chain around someone's neck. That is many states allow for the expungement of certain criminal records. An expungement means that the incident is stricken from someone's record.

In Indiana, the legislature is considering a proposal to give judge's authority to expunge an old criminal record if the person with the record can show that they have reformed. The proposal could potentially apply not only to convictions, but to arrest records as well.

The goal of the expungement proposal is to build a chance for forgiveness back into a criminal justice system that has tilted heavily toward punishment and retribution in recent years. The focus would be on nonviolent crimes.

It's well known that criminal records can make it difficult for people to get jobs. It can also make it harder to rent an apartment.

The principle behind the proposal, says State Rep. Jud McMillin, is to create a criminal justice system in Indiana that is based on restorative justice. The restorative approach believes that when someone has taken sufficient steps to reform themselves, society should not continue to hold a brush with the law against them.

Under current Indiana law, it is possible to seal certain criminal records in old, low-level cases. When a record is sealed, it is no longer accessible to the public. But it is necessary to obtain a court order in order to do that.

The expungement proposal would take this a step further. It would apply not only to various misdemeanors and to class D felonies, as the sealing law does. Judges would be allowed to expunge some class B and class C felonies, as long as certain conditions are met.

The conditions would include a waiting period of at minimum of five years following the completion of a sentence. Violent crimes and sex crimes would not be eligible. And the offender would have to show that he or she had been law-abiding since the incident in order for an expungement to be granted.

If the proposal passes, Indiana would join at least 26 other states in allowing for the expungement of at least some felony offenses.

Source: "Bill would allow some criminal records to be expunged," News and Tribune, Maureen Hayden, 1-11-13

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Indiana criminal defense page.

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