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Old expungement law turns good luck to bad

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A man’s good luck at never being charged with a crime despite four arrests turned bad when he tried to get his record expunged.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial of H.M.’s four petitions to restrict the disclosure of his arrest records, finding he was not eligible for expungement under the former expungement law.

H.M. was arrested multiple times between December 1993 and January 2002 for a variety of incidents including battery, public intoxication, criminal trespass, theft and receiving stolen property. Each time, the state did not file charges.

In February 2013, he filed petitions to restrict the disclosure of his four arrest records. His request was considered under the state’s old expungement statute contained in Indiana Code 35-38-5-5.5.

The Court of Appeals noted the former law applies in this case because H.M. filed his petitions and the trial court summarily denied the petitions before Indiana’s new expungement law was enacted on July 1, 2013.

Agreeing with H.M. that “charge” and “to charge” are not defined in the state’s criminal statutes, the Court of Appeals found guidance in I.C. 35-33-1-1 and Epperson v. State 530, N.E.2d 743, 746 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988) which hold that criminal prosecution can start only with the filing of an information or indictment.

Since prosecuting attorneys never filed charges after H.M. was arrested, H.M. was not “charged,” the COA concluded in H.M. v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1304-CR-157. Therefore, he is not eligible to restrict the disclosure of his arrest records.

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  • restricted access v. expungement
    Technically speaking, H.M. should have filed under 35-38-5-1 which is the actual expungement provision under the 'old law'. And also technically speaking, this part of the old law was not repealed when 35-38-9 went into effect. I don't know whether s/he was represented at the superior court level, but if s/he was self-represented this might have been a 'simple' issue of using the incorrect form. The article is not careful with the jargon surrounding this type of case. Expungement, sealing, and restricted access all had different meanings, just as ‘sealing’ and ‘expungement’ have different meanings now that the law has changed #superconfusing. If H.M. had asked for expungement it should have been granted, but H.M. apparently asked for 'restricted access' which is NOT the same thing. At the end of the day, the point of these laws is to make it possible for someone to get a job! Call it what you will, folks who have 'paid their debt' (sentence, parole, probation, fees, etc.) should not continue to be punished for years, even decades, after. Most folks have no idea that ANY arrest results in an entry on their criminal history and it DOES NOT magically go away. I’ve seen IMPD reports, mostly of arrests not resulting in convictions, that go back to 1968!!! How do we expect them to move at any kind of ‘upward trajectory’ if they can never get away from things done (or *not* done, in the case of dismissed/not filed charges) in the past?

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