Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Indiana
Having a criminal record in Indiana can stall the offender’s chance of living a normal life, even after serving a sentence. The damage of a criminal conviction is far-reaching, and to this end, the Indiana judiciary permits the expungement/sealing of criminal records. However, expungement is not total in Indiana as it results in records being sealed, and law enforcement agencies will still retain copies of the case documents. Following Indiana Code 35–38–9, offenders eligible for expungement are individuals that committed a misdemeanor, less serious felonies, and in some cases, serious felony convictions.
The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records
In Indiana, expunged records are not destroyed or erased, as seen in other parts of the United States. Following IC 35–38–9, if a court grants the request to expunge a criminal case file, the criminal record is sealed. However, juvenile records that resulted in a ‘true bill’ are destroyed from the repository following Ind. Code § 35–38–9–1. Also, minors involved in human trafficking as victims can push a motion to erase the record, and hearing usually follow such requests. That said, sealed criminal records are confidential and inaccessible by members of the public. Nevertheless, the federal government, law enforcement agencies, immigration officers, and the FBI can view sealed records. Ultimately, offenders can claim to have never been arrested or convicted for a crime, according to IC 35–38–9–1.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Seal a Criminal Record in Indiana
Per IC 35–38–9, crimes that can be sealed are felonies reduced to misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and Class D felonies. Also, expunged orders are issued to seal records; therefore, the process for sealing criminal records is the same as expungement. Offenders can file a petition at the court in charge of the case to seal a criminal case, and the application should contain all the necessary details to identify the record in the clerk’s office. The court may not request filing fees and send a copy of the petition to the prosecuting attorney. The court will examine if the petitioner meets all requirements for expungement. When the application is approved, there will be the redaction of criminal charges. The participating agencies in the case will receive an order to restrict access to that particular case file.
What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Indiana?
In Indiana, expugnable crimes are misdemeanors, Class D felonies, and felonies reduced to misdemeanors. Examples are:
- Harassment of citizens
- Possession of marijuana
- Vehicle theft
- False identity
To reduce a felony to a misdemeanor (only Class D felonies), the offender must file a petition to the court five years after the conviction date. For non-violent felonies, the violator must file a petition to the court eight years after the conviction date. For critical felonies, the waiting period is ten years or more and must have written consent from the prosecutor. Expungement is not available for homicide, sex-related crimes, human trafficking, official misconduct, and offenses committed using a deadly weapon.
How to Expunge Criminal Records in Indiana
Under Indiana revised expungement law, expunged records are sealed and can only be accessed by court order or to a law enforcement officer. When the court approves an expungement, no part of the arrest, criminal charges, or court proceedings are retrievable by the general public. Parties who want to expunge criminal records must file a petition at the specific county the case originated. Petitioners can seek advice from an attorney as a requestor cannot re-file or submit a new petition to expunge the same criminal case. Court staff will send notifications for any hearing and if the court rejects the request.
The prosecution attorney should receive a copy of the expungement petition and other necessary documents supporting the sealing of records within 30days. In the petition, the offender must provide evidence of moral and behavioral change in character as well as evidence of rehabilitation. Victims are notified and also allowed to respond. In several cases, the filing fee for a petition for expungement is $156 for most courts. However, the court may choose to reduce or waive this fee if the person is indigent. There are no filing fees for the expungement of an arrest record that did not lead to a conviction. Petitions to expunge criminal convictions are only granted once in a lifetime, so it is pertinent to have all convictions expunged at a go. Civil rights, including voting, firearm rights, and public office and jury service eligibility, will be restored upon expungement.
Do Sealed Records Show Up In Indiana Background Checks?
No, sealed records do not show up on background checks in Indiana as the state expungement statutes prohibit the disclosure of sealed records on criminal background checks. While the sealed records will not appear if checked, law enforcement agencies and the court can still have access to such files.
Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in Indiana?
Following the expungement laws, persons or agencies that can access sealed criminal records include:
- The police
- Defense attorneys with a court order
- Criminal justice agencies
- Prosecutors with a court order
- Law enforcement agencies with certified requests from the court
- The state Board of Law Examiners
- Correctional institutions
- Federal Mortgage Licensing Department
- Federal and state motor vehicle agencies
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation
How to Obtain Sealed Records in Indiana
Public agencies will refuse disclosure of records if the information on the case file is sealed or expunged. Furthermore, case documents that are declared confidential by state statutes, federal law, rules by a public agency, and the Indiana Supreme Court cannot be obtainable by the general public. Nevertheless, the police and other criminal justice agencies can obtain sealed records.