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Judges find court should have granted expungement

April 17, 2014

Finding that the word “shall” in Indiana Code 35-38-9-2(d) is mandatory language requiring expungement, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a man’s petition to expunge his 2004 misdemeanor sexual misconduct with a minor conviction.

The issue in Jason Taylor v. State of Indiana, 45A03-1310-CR-406, is while I.C. 35-38-9-2, which applies to misdemeanor convictions, may appear clear and unambiguous on its face, it is ambiguous when read in conjunction with I.C. 35-38-9-9(d), which requires the court to consider the victim’s statement before making its determination. Section 2 says that the court “shall order the conviction records described in subsection (b) expunged in accordance with section 6 of this chapter,” as long as conditions outlined in the section are met.

The trial judge denied Jason Taylor’s request to expunge his Class A misdemeanor conviction based on the victim’s testimony. Taylor met all the other conditions outlined in Section 2 and the state agreed his conviction should be expunged.

He pleaded guilty to a sexual misconduct charge as a Class D felony that was later reduced to the Class A misdemeanor.

The interpretation of Section 2 is an issue of first impression for the appeals court.

“We agree with Taylor that Section 35-38-9-2(d) unambiguously requires expungement when all of the statutory requirements are satisfied. Section 35-38-9-2(d) states that the trial court ‘shall order’ the conviction records expunged when all statutory requirements are met. Had the legislature intended the expungement of conviction records under Section 35-38-9-2(d) to be discretionary, it would have used the word ‘may’ instead of the word ‘shall,’” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

This decision does not render Section 9-9(d) meaningless, as the state had argued, because it applies to other sections under Chapter 9 where the trial court is required to consider a victim’s testimony before granting expungement, Vaidik continued.
 

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