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April 23, 2013

Criminal records expungement bill heads to Pence

Some ex-offenders who have stayed out of trouble can get relief

INDIANAPOLIS —

A bill that would allow some people with long-ago arrests and convictions in Indiana to wipe clean their criminal record is on its way to the governor’s desk. 

The Indiana House gave final approval to legislation that creates a mechanism for the court-ordered expungement of criminal records that bill supporters say are a lifelong impediment to employment for ex-offenders who’ve redeemed themselves.

“Making a mistake doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily a bad person. Making a mistake means you’re a human being,” said Rep. Jud McMillin, the Brookville Republican and former deputy prosecutor who was lead author on the bill. “They shouldn’t have to live with it forever.”

If signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, House Bill 1482 would create Indiana’s first-ever expungement law covering multiple levels of offenses. It passed the House on a 78-19 vote.

There is a long list of conditions on who can qualify. But the bill opens the door for some ex-offenders who’ve stayed out of trouble to get rid of an old arrest or conviction that potential employers often see as an automatic disqualifier for a job. 

 “A lot of times, the reason why people go into prison and come right out into a bad lifestyle is because they have no opportunity, they have no hope,” said McMillin. “They can’t look into the future and see where things are going to get better for them because every job application they turn in gets thrown into the trash can.” 

Indiana has a criminal records “sealing” law that allows people with arrests or convictions for low-level, nonviolent crimes to get a court order to shield that record from public view after a number of years have passed. But it only applies to certain misdemeanors and some class D felonies. The expungement bill approved Monday goes further and covers some higher-level offenses. 

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