INDIANAPOLIS – Thousands of felons and misdemeanants would be eligible to permanently erase old convictions under a bill heard Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 1482 creates the ability for Hoosiers to easily expunge their records for low-level felonies as well as misdemeanors. Some of these crimes include theft, battery and drunk driving.
Expungement isnt about who they were then. Its about who they are now, said Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville. This gives people hope. Without that hope, you have recidivism.
He added that the bill is really about giving people the opportunity to get back to work because employers often refuse to hire people with convictions.
The program would require judges to expunge eligible convictions 10 years after the case ended. Offenders must have fully completed their sentences and not committed new crimes.
There also is an opportunity for a judge to consider expunging some higher-level felonies, such as dealing drugs.
And the bill provides a similar pathway to eliminate arrest records in which no conviction ever occurred. In many cases, formal charges were never filed, were dismissed or the person was acquitted.
Under the expungement, all related records are removed and sent to the sentencing court, where they are sealed. Even law enforcement would not see the previous convictions when checking records.
McMillin said the expungement law would essentially replace a current statute allowing offenders to shield or hide their records from public view and lie on employment applications.
Brandon George – a convicted felon with multiple drug arrests – described his addiction years ago for legislators, including stealing money to buy drugs and dropping out of high school.
Today thats not my story anymore, he said, noting he has been clean four years, received his GED, an associate degree and now is working toward a bachelors degree.
To pay for his college education, he is in lower management at an Indianapolis restaurant but cant advance any further because of his past felony.
This is the face of peoples lives that you will be changing, George said.
But the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council opposed the bill and offered a separate program. It would mark records as expunged but they would still be public. People using the expunged record to deny someone a job, a license, entry into school or other things could face a civil action. In some ways, the bill would make it easier to get the expungement but it also would make it a one-time opportunity, meaning people with multiple convictions could not use the law.
Dave Powell, executive director for the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said the current bill goes far beyond helping someone who made one mistake as a young adult. And testimony showed that some of the crimes that could receive expungement could be considered violent. He also said every year more than 200,000 Hoosiers are convicted of misdemeanors or Class D felonies punishable by six months to three years in prison.
The panel decided to vote on the bill next week as more negotiations occur.