How to Get a Record Expunged in Indiana
How the Indiana Second Chance Law works for criminal matters
on February 13, 2020
Updated on February 10, 2022
James D. Crum has been a criminal defense attorney for roughly 30 years. For the first 20, he could count the number of expungement cases on one hand. Now the tool to clear criminal records has become a significant part of his business.
“Up until about 2011, the only expungement we had was for false arrest, basically,” Crum says of Indiana expungement law. “Our legislators in the early 2010s felt there were too many people out there whose background checks were causing them problems, and they have learned from their mistakes and been crime-free. So now they have developed an expungement law that allows us to expunge most convictions, not all, and any arrests that didn’t result in convictions.”
A criminal history—especially a felony conviction—can cause a person significant hardship when it comes to housing and employment opportunities. According to The Sentencing Project, nearly 90% of American employers currently conduct some form of background check on job applicants, and 60% of formerly incarcerated people report being unemployed one year after their release. Indiana now offers people a way to clean up their criminal record. Under state law, conviction records can be sealed and expunged when certain criteria are met. Here’s an overview of the steps in the process.
Determine Your Eligibility for Record Expungement
First and foremost, you need to determine if you are eligible for relief under Indiana’s second chance law. While the statute covers many people, certain convictions cannot be removed. You may be able to get your criminal records expunged if you were arrested but not convicted, have a misdemeanor conviction and five years have passed since the date of conviction, or have a Class D felony conviction and eight years have passed. For more serious felony offenses, expungement may still be possible—but it can be more challenging.
“Most misdemeanors and Level 6 felonies, which are the lowest class felony in Indiana, are going to be eligible as long as they’ve had a long enough period of being crime-free and paid their court costs,” Crum says. “That’s really all it boils down to.”
Higher level felonies are also eligible, Crum adds, but it’s up to the discretion of the court. “The waiting period is longer and the expungement itself is up to the judge,” Crum says.
In those cases, you get a court hearing before a judge and have the ability to argue your case. While you don’t precisely know what to expect, Crum says he has gotten a pretty good feel for it. “I can, for the most part, tell a client if I feel like they have a shot.”
Satisfy All Terms of Your Sentence
Beyond waiting the required period of time to apply for the expungement process, you must also satisfy all financial terms and conditions related to your sentence. As an example, if you were ordered to pay restitution as part of a misdemeanor criminal conviction, you can be denied expungement on the grounds that the restitution has not yet been paid. By contrast, someone could violate their probation, but still be eligible for expungement.
Submit a Petition for Expungement
Indiana code requires a petition for expungement to be filed at the county level. For instance, if you were arrested in Indianapolis, your expungement case will most likely be filed in Marion County. The prosecuting attorney should receive a copy of your expungement petition and all documents supporting the sealing of your records within 30 days. If it is a discretionary case (a higher-class felony) and there is a victim, they will be notified and given an opportunity to respond. In the petition, the burden of proof is on the defendant. You must be prepared to provide evidence of rehabilitation, positive moral character, and general good behavior in the community.
“I would not advise you do it on your own,” Crum says. “Very specific statutory language needs to be included, and it can be a major risk because you only get one shot at expungement in Indiana.”
Crum has successfully represented clients for expunged records, who were later arrested for another crime. “Unfortunately, they can’t expunge that new case,” he says.
How Much Will a Lawyer Cost?
Contacting an experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney for assistance is advisable. As for what they will cost, the attorney should cover that with you in their initial consultation. The more convictions you have to clear, and the more counties they are filed in, the more costly your case.
“In those cases, I would do it on an hourly basis,” Crum says. “But it’s usually a flat fee. If we’re dealing with one or two misdemeanor or Level 6 convictions, in the same county, I think you can expect anywhere from $750 to $1,000."
For more information on this area of law, see our overview of criminal defense.