What is expungement?

Expungement is the destruction or sealing of criminal records so that they are only available in limited circumstances. Under Indiana’s new expungement law, expunged records are sealed and may only be released by court order or to a law enforcement officer acting in the course of their official duty.

The new Indiana law states that the civil rights of a person whose conviction is expunged shall be restored and it shall be unlawful for anyone to discriminate against a person – including discrimination in employment – based on a person’s conviction that has been expunged.

Who may have their records expunged?

You may have your records expunged only if there are no charges pending against you, you do not have a suspended driver’s license, and you have not been convicted of a crime for a certain number of years (between 5 – 10 years depending on the severity of the crime).

For a misdemeanor or Class D felony reduced to a misdemeanor, you may petition the court for an expungement five years after conviction.  For most non-violent felonies the waiting period is eight years.  For more serious felonies, the waiting period is ten years and the consent of the prosecuting attorney is required. Expungement is not available to sex offenders, violent offenders or those convicted of official misconduct.

Additionally, if you were arrested but not prosecuted or your conviction was overturned on appeal you may have your arrest records expunged as soon as one year after the date of arrest.

How are records expunged?

In order to have the records expunged, you must file a petition to expunge in the county in which the conviction was entered.  If you are seeking to expunge multiple convictions in the same county, you must do so in the same petition.  If you wish to expunge convictions in separate counties, you must file a petition in each county in which a conviction was entered.

In most cases, the filing fee for a petition for expungement is equal to the court’s civil filing fee (currently $156 for most courts).  The court may reduce or waive this fee if the person is indigent. There is no filing fee for a petition for expungement of an arrest record that did not lead to a conviction.  If the prosecuting attorney objects to the petition to expunge, the court shall hold a hearing on the merits of the petition.

You may only petition to expunge your conviction record once in your lifetime, so you must seek to have all of your convictions expunged at the same time (or within a 1 year period for convictions in separate counties). Multiple petitions for expungement of arrest records that did not lead to a conviction are permitted.  If a petition for expungement is denied due to the exercise of the court’s discretion, there is a 3 year waiting period before filling for another expungement.

Do I need an attorney to get records expunged?

Due to the complexity of the law and the fact that you may only petition to expunge once in your lifetime, it is highly recommended that you do so with the help of an attorney.

Where can I find pro bono legal advice?

While it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney before initiating the records expungement process, the Indiana Pro Bono Commission provides resources for how to find legal aid. For more information on pro bono services, follow this link: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/probono/