Indiana Criminal Record Expungement Law: A Good, Fair, and Just Social Policy

Indiana-criminal-record-expungement-lawThe SFT Blog has written extensively on Indiana criminal record expungement law.  (See, “Criminal Post Conviction Relief Available July 1, 2013 for A, B, and C Felonies in Indiana!”, “Major Exciting Changes to Indiana’s Second Chance Expungement Act for 2013”, and, “Spend Your Tax Refund Wisely! Get a Better Job with an Indiana Criminal Record Expungement!”)  Not only is this law good for people convicted of a crime, it is good social policy.

Indiana Criminal Record Expungement Law – Good Becuase Criminal Record Was Never Intended to be a Punishment

Many prosecutors and judges have complained and even written to their state legislators in the Indiana General Assembly because they do not agree with the Indiana criminal record expungement law known as the “Second Chance Act”.  As written in the previous articles cited above, the 2014 law requires judges to grant some petitions, while it allows judges discretion on others (such as A, B, and C felonies).  Some complain that the law is poorly written, that it is unclear whether it was intended to restore certain rights such as the right to carry and conceal a firearm as a matter of law. Nonetheless, some prosecutors would like the law repealed.  They claim that the general public has a right to know who the offenders are in their community, and that such a law takes away from opportunities of non-offenders in employment.

However, establishing permanent criminal records was never intended to provide an additional punishment to the offender.  Our system was founded on a principal of rehabilitation, and not retribution as some might think.  Incarceration is as much for the protection of victims of crime than to punish the offenders.  If the offender serves a time of incarceration, he or she is prevented from committing further crimes and hurting other potential victims.  Only in the most serious cases where a victim is actually injured or harmed by the offender’s criminal conduct should the system itself intend to actually punish the individual.  Incarceration also serves as a deterrent to committing crimes in the first place, and the very threat of incarceration helps to establish and promote regular order in our society as a whole.

But keeping a permanent criminal record on individuals is to identify those individuals who pose a threat to society at large by tracking patterns of criminal conduct.  Permanent criminal records are simply designed to give prosecutors and judges tools to determine which types of individual each defendant is–is he or she a repeat criminal offender? Is he or she a career criminal? Is there a pattern for this person’s behavior?  The answers to these questions are crucial in determining a proper sentence for an individual who has been convicted.  This was the only intended use for permanent criminal records.

Then, at some point later when the information became publicly available, employers began using criminal background checks to screen potential job applicants.  All of a sudden a crime that a person has completely paid the price for continues to haunt the individual for literally his or her entire life.  Not only does the person face the built in prejudices in the criminal justice system should he or she commit further crimes, but he or she will have to face a heavy bias in finding a job and obtaining gainful employment.  Did we really intend for a person’s permanent criminal record to be an additional life sentence?  I don’t think so.  And in passing the new Indiana criminal record expungement law, the Indiana General Assembly appears to agree.

Indiana Criminal Record Expungement Law– Restoring Rights and Giving a Second Chance

As mentioned, it becomes exponentially more difficult for a convicted person to obtain employment after the sentence has been served and his or her debt to society has been paid.  The moment that a new potential employer becomes aware that a person has been convicted of committing a crime, the person receives a new sentence each time he or she is turned down for employment.  This is not only unfair, but it may even cause the person to turn back to crime and re-offend because they feel that they have little or no options.  The only hope that many of these people have is with an Indiana criminal record expungement law.

Indiana Criminal Record Expungement Law – Well Tailored to Protect the Public

In addition to the general social policy benefits to the Indiana criminal record expungement law, the Indiana criminal record expungement law known as the “Second Chance Act”, most recently amended in 2014, is well thought out to allow non-violent and non-repeat offenders a second chance without jeopardizing the safety and order of Hoosiers.

First, the Indiana criminal record expungement law only offers the opportunity to expunge one’s criminal record AFTER eight (8) years from the date of conviction for a felony, and five (5) years from the date of conviction for a misdemeanor, with certain exceptions.  You cannot have committed a crime within the preceeding five (5) or eight (8) years to be eligible for an Indiana criminal record expungement.  These waiting periods serve a very important purpose.  They separate repeat offenders from offenders who may have made an isolated mistake, or offenders who had a defined period of criminal conduct in their lives.  If you are a repeat offender, you would not be eligible under the Indiana criminal record expungement law because, by definition, you would likely have committed a crime during this waiting period.  In addition, if a new crime takes place within five (5) years after relief under the Indiana criminal record expungment law is granted, the State of Indiana, by its deputy prosecutor, can move the court to have the record restored as though it had never been expunged.

Secondly, built into the new Indiana criminal record expungement law, the law separates the most serious offenses–those involving actual harm to victims–from victimless and otherwise harmless and nonviolent acts of criminal conduct, such as possession of certain drugs in limited quantities, such as the possession of marijuana. Crimes harming victims and violent crime are typically in the highest three classes of crimes–A, B, and C felonies.  In addition to a longer waiting period of ten (10) years, with these crimes a court has wide discretion in whether to grant relief under the Indiana criminal record expungement law, unlike in misdemeanor cases, and the prosecutor also has wide discretion in whether relief under the Indiana criminal record expungement law is granted.  Certain crimes such as child molesting, murder, and rape, for example, can never be expunged under most circumstances.  So all in all, this law was well drafted in ensuring the general public is protected from truly harmful individuals, while allowing a second chance to those who truly deserve it.

SFT Lawyers – Experienced Indiana Criminal Record Expungement Law Lawyers

SFT Lawyers have experienced Indiana criminal record expungement law attorneys eager to assist you in getting that second chance that you deserve.  CALL TODAY for a FREE CONSULTATION for an Indiana criminal record expungement! (219) 841-5683.