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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana residents with a criminal background will soon receive new guidance on when they can begin the process of expunging their records, allowing them to move on with their lives and start toward a better future.

When it goes into effect July 1, Senate Enrolled Act 47 will redefine how long Indiana residents must wait to invoke the state’s Second Chance Law, which has given ex-convicts the ability to clear their records of non-violent crimes since 2011.

The new law clarifies that a five-year wait period required before residents can pursue expungement begins at the time of the original conviction and does not reset if the conviction is reduced to a lower offense.

“It helps them get better jobs and removes any stigma of a criminal history,” said Carrie Hagan, a clinical assistant professor of law at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. “It allows them to have a clean slate.”

Hagan has developed partnerships with organizations like Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana and Ivy Tech Community College to help provide expungement services to those with a criminal record through a student-led Civil Practice Clinic.

Students working in the clinic first discovered an issue in the wait time rule when reviewing the case Naveed Gulzar v. State of Indiana. In the case, an Elkhart man named Naveed Gulzar had his 2006 felony charge for theft and fraud reduced to a Class A misdemeanor after petitioning the case in 2016.

But when Gulzar applied for record expungement in 2018, the Elkhart Superior Court denied the request by claiming his five-year wait period reset in 2016 when his case was reduced. After the decision, Judge John Baker called the majority’s decision “unjust and ill advised.”

Hagan and students in her Civil Practice Clinic brought this issue back up to lawmakers’ attention by filing two “friend of the law” briefs, in the Gulzar case. Amicus briefs are filed by a third party that has a strong opinion on a particular case but is not a direct party involved, Hagan explained.

Taylor Dixon is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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