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House OKs expungement bill; goes to governor

INDIANAPOLIS – Thousands of criminal convictions could disappear under a bill given final approval by the Indiana House Monday.

House Bill 1482 passed 78-19 and now goes to Gov. Mike Pence, who has not indicated his position on the legislation.

"Making a mistake doesn't mean that you're necessarily a bad person. Making a mistake means you are a human being," said Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, author of the bill.

"They shouldn't have to live with it forever."

The measure sets up the state's first-ever expungement law allowing Hoosiers to erase criminal convictions of various levels.

Hoosiers can only file one petition for expungement during the person's lifetime, though that petition can cover more than one crime.

Generally, most sex or violent offenders; those convicted of a homicide charge or someone committing official misconduct are not eligible for expungement.

But some crimes causing bodily harm are eligible, including battery and driving while intoxicated causing death.

Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion, has long supported an expungement law as a way to give citizens an opportunity for employment they otherwise don't have.

"They acknowledge their mistake. They have paid their debt to society. This allows for redemption," he said.

The bill sets up several different processes for expunging records, starting with arrest records for someone not prosecuted or whose conviction was overturned.

It requires a local court judge to expunge misdemeanor convictions as early as five years after the conviction if the person petitioning has completed the sentence, has no charges pending and hasn't been convicted of another crime in the last five years.

Similar proceedings exist for D felony convictions, but only eight years after conviction.

These two proceedings completely expunge the records from public view, though law enforcement can still access them.

Next, the bill allows Hoosiers to seek expungements for more serious felonies eight years after the end of the sentence, but a judge has the discretion to grant it or not.

And there is an opportunity for expungement for crimes resulting in serious bodily injury 10 years after a completed sentence, again at the discretion of a judge. Also, in this category the prosecutor must consent.

In the last two sections of the law, the records are still available to the public but are clearly marked as expunged.

The bill replaces a law legislators passed a few years ago shielding records from public view.

The legislation also changes how employers are allowed to ask about past criminal history. Now prospective employees will be asked, "Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged by a court?"

The only area representative to vote against the bill was Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne. Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, did not vote.

nkelly@jg.net

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