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Old expungement law applies to dropped charges in plea deal, COA rules

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A man who sought to expunge arrest records for charges that were dismissed in a 2011 plea agreement was denied at the trial court but convinced the Indiana Court of Appeals that access to those records should be restricted.

Alec Lucas pleaded guilty to Class D felony counts of possession of a controlled substance and dealing marijuana, and the state dismissed a D felony count of dealing marijuana, a misdemeanor minor in possession of alcohol count and traffic infractions.

Lucas later filed a petition under I.C. 35-38-5-5.5 to restrict access to the dismissed charges. Marion Superior Judge James Osborn denied the request, concluding that the statute doesn’t apply in instances where some charges are dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement, but others are not.

“While the statute is not a model of clarity, we conclude that it was intended to apply to any dismissed charge and not just in cases where all charges have been dismissed,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the panel, in Alec Lucas v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1301-CR-51, reversing and remanding to the trial court.

The holding is limited, though, because a new expungement law enacted this year repealed the prior section and made clear that the new law would be on the trial court’s side.

“New Section 35-38-9-1 allows a person to petition a court to seal arrest records if: ‘(1) the arrest did not result in a conviction or juvenile adjudication; or (2) the arrest resulted in a conviction or juvenile adjudication and the conviction or adjudication was vacated on appeal,’” Crone wrote. “The trial court’s approach, however, was more consistent with the new statute than with the statute in effect at the time.”

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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