Indiana agrees to bury many people’s criminal record

A lot of Indiana residents do not know about our state’s Second Chance law. Passed in 2013, the law allows many people with marks on their criminal history to get their records officially cleared by the state of Indiana itself.

Many call it expungement, but the law seals criminal records so they will not show up on a criminal background check (even though the criminal justice system itself can see it). The purpose of the law is to let people move on with their lives without the burden of old convictions weighing them down.

Why would Indiana want to expunge your record?

Over the last decade, many people of all kinds have finally gotten the message.

Right now, one out of every three adults in America has a criminal record. But a criminal record often means you cannot get a job allowing society to use what you are able to offer, and you cannot get paid for giving it. You and society are both out of luck.

NPR recently did a major story on Indiana’s expungement law. It quoted an American University law professor saying a permanent criminal record for things like minor misdemeanors “hurts communities, it hurts counties and it hurts states if their citizens cannot be productively employed or aren’t part of the tax base.”

A national change seems to be underway

Indiana’s 2013 law was early in the trend. In only the last two years, more than 20 states have new or stronger laws allowing the expungement of criminal records. There are many reasons why this is happening now.

New marijuana laws now make many old convictions seem pointless to keep on the books. Black Lives Matter and other movements for change have helped raise awareness of ways criminalization can affect communities. Perhaps, the longest economic recovery in history also has employers pushing to bring good workers back into the workforce.

A state legal process with many rules and procedures

You can only ask for expungements once in a lifetime. However, you can ask the judge to expunge a whole menu of convictions at once. For that reason, someone with multiple convictions may want to look at all the factors and options and choose the right moment.

For example, you can ask for an expungement of a misdemeanor five years after your conviction. However, for many major felonies (not involving serious bodily injury), you must wait eight years after you complete your sentence. Timing might be everything.

There are some crimes for which judges must grant expungement if the person meets the criteria and others for which the judge can make their own judgment.