Blemishes on your record can disrupt your life. Things like low-level misdemeanors or arrests without convictions can hinder your career and well-being. They can appear on background checks by employers, landlords, or remain in public view.
Indiana law provides a solution to remove some of these hurdles, and new additions to expungement laws have created more opportunities. Learn more about expungements and how they work.
Indiana’s New Expungement Laws
An “expungement” is a legal term for removing or hiding information in certain archives. In the latest change to Indiana’s expungement laws, you can seek to remove arrests or charges that did not result in a conviction from the public eye.
Before this change in 2022, your arrests would remain on your record even if the charges against you were dropped or you were acquitted. Your records will be sealed if your case was adjudicated, you completed a pre-trial diversion program, or your conviction is vacated after your trial.
Expungements happen automatically whenever charges are dismissed, if a year or more has passed in juvenile cases with no action from the prosecutor, and when a defendant is acquitted or a conviction is vacated after the fact.
What Crimes Are Eligible for Expungement?
Although expungement might seem like a clean slate for any offense, there are limits to what can be sealed in Indiana. Aside from the scenarios listed above, other possible expungements may apply to misdemeanors and low-level felonies. You can’t be in a pretrial diversion program, have convictions within one year of filing for an expungement, or have any pending criminal charges. You must usually wait before you can be eligible for an expungement, ranging from one to eight years, depending on the crime you’re seeking to seal.
Besides meeting the expungement requirements of lower-level charges, you must get a prosecutor’s approval to seal higher-level felonies.
Some crimes cannot ever be sealed. They include:
- Sexual offenses
- Violent offenses
- Official misconduct, defined in Indiana Code 35-44-1-1
- Convictions for two or more offenses involving the use of a deadly weapon, committed in more than one event
- Homicide, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter
How Do I Get an Expungement?
Call a criminal defense attorney to walk you through the process if you feel you qualify for an expungement. You could work on your case alone, but Indiana only allows you one expungement of your records; you can apply to expunge several charges at once, but you only get one chance to do so.
Working with your attorney, you must file a petition to the court where you were charged. The information on your petition will reflect the charge you’re seeking to expunge. Automatic expungements will take effect 180 days after an arrest without charges.
The court will review your petition. You may be required to attend a hearing. If they approve your petition, your records will be sealed. Any agency with the information will be ordered to seal the relevant information.
If your petition is denied, however, you may need to pursue an appeal. An attorney can explain what’s required to win an appeal.
Will My Expunged Records Appear on Background Checks?
Once a court approves your expungement petition, you can rest assured that your records will not appear in most searches by landlords, employers, lending agents, licensing authorities, or educational institutions. Law enforcement bodies can still access your sealed records if necessary.
Are Expungements Permanent?
In most cases, your records remain sealed once your expungement is approved. However, there could be some circumstances when law enforcement agencies could unseal your records. For instance, your records might be unsealed if you’re charged with a new crime.
Will I Need More than One Petition if I Have Charges in Multiple Counties?
Yes. You’ll need to file an expungement in every county you’re trying to seal records in. You need to file your petitions within one year of one another. An Expungement attorney can help you find the correct courthouses to file your expungements.
Will My Record Be Completely Erased if I’m Granted an Expungement?
An expungement doesn’t remove your record; it simply seals them from public access. Any crime that isn’t eligible for expungement will remain public, and if it’s appropriate, your record could be reopened in certain circumstances.
How Long Does the Expungement Process Take?
Your expungement case could take some time to process. You’ll be at the court’s mercy and its schedule. Each case is unique, and timing can depend on the number of records you’re seeking sealed or the complexity of each case. Your attorney should keep you informed as you work towards sealing your records.
Call an Indianapolis Expungement Lawyer
Expungements can provide you a sense of relief and a cleaner slate than you had before you sealed your records. It’s possible to work on a petition alone, but you stand a better chance at successfully expunging charges with the aid of an expungement lawyer. Attorney Sean Hessler has spent his career representing people in trouble who need help. He has first-hand knowledge in criminal courts and can support your effort to reach a better life.