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COA reverses decision to deny woman’s expungement request

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a Jay Circuit Court decision to deny a woman’s petition for expungement of her records after she was convicted of forgery and dealing in methamphetamine.

In Mindy M. Cline v. State of Indiana, 38A04-1512-XP-2221, Cline filed a petition for expungement of her 2003 forgery conviction and 2004 dealing in methamphetamine conviction on Oct. 16, 2015, and the state did not oppose.

However, on Nov. 13, 2015, Cline’s petition was denied, with the trial court saying it was “based largely on the nature of the convictions, the severity of the offenses and the relatively short duration since release from probation/parole on the most recent convictions.” At that time, Cline had been out of supervision for five years.

At a hearing one day before Cline’s petition was denied,  Jay Circuit Judge Brian Hutchinson had told Cline that he remembered her convictions, particularly her methamphetamine conviction, and that he was tired of dealing with meth and heroin offenders.

“I’ve had a belly full,” Hutchinson said of drug offenders. “I’m not doing favors for people that are causing these problems in Jay County.”

Cline appealed, saying the trial court abused its discretion by relying upon circumstances that are not statutory bars to expungement – specifically, the type of offense and length of time elapse.

The state wrote that Cline was asking for the Court of Appeals to reweigh the evidence and invade the province of the fact-finder, but in its reversal on Thursday, the court wrote that the state’s argument ignores the fact that the existing evidence given to the trial court pointed toward expungement.

Further, the court wrote that it seemed the trial court thought Cline had eight convictions, rather than two. Although her original expungement petition stated that she had four forgery convictions and four dealing in methamphetamine convictions, the evidence at the expungement hearing showed that she only had one conviction each.

Cline was young when she was convicted and has now satisfied the prerequisites for expungement, the court wrote. Further, the Court of Appeals said she has been consistently employed and has earned various degrees, licenses and certifications, including an associate’s degree in business administration.

However, Cline testified that she lost her job as a store manager when the store owners learned of her record. She testified that she would like to return to management and would be more able to do so if her record were expunged.

The Court of Appeals called Hutchinson’s remarks about Cline’s past convictions and drug offenders as a whole “troubling.”

“Undeniably, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs are a burden upon communities and judicial resources,” the court wrote. “That said, our legislature has provided a second chance for individuals who have in the distant past committed drug-related crimes.”

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the denial of Cline’s petition for expungement, with Judge Michael Barnes dissenting.

Barnes wrote in a separate opinion that although Hutchinson’s comments were “not exactly artful and (were) unnecessarily harsh,” the trial court was within its parameters to deny the expungement petition. Further, Barnes wrote that state statute is silent on what factors trial courts may consider when deciding how to exercise its discretion.

However, Barnes wrote that he would remand the case to trial court to clarify how many convictions it believed Cline had and reconsider its denial.
 

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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