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Appeals panel reverses expungement denial

June 26, 2015

A trial court that rejected an expungement petition because the petitioner had not been arrested on an underage drinking charge got it wrong, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The panel reversed a ruling by Monroe Circuit Judge Kenneth G. Todd and ordered records expunged in Sabrina Y. Dada v. State of Indiana 53A01-1501-CR-33. Dada had not been arrested and sought to expunge records related to a summons for a Class C misdemeanor that was dismissed pursuant to a pretrial diversion agreement.

In interpreting I.C. 35-38-9-1, Judge John Baker wrote for the court in a four-page opinion that the Legislature could not have concluded that Dada was not entitled to relief because she was never arrested.

“We cannot conclude that the legislature intended for this result to be reached, inasmuch as it would offer relief to more problematic offenders and deny relief to more compliant ones. In other words, as Dada astutely points out, ‘if this line of reasoning is followed, it will create an unjust result for those individuals that may be non-threatening and compliant with an officer and are only issued a summons as opposed to being formally placed under arrest.’”

The court noted the statute has since been amended to allow expungement for those charged with a crime, but not arrested, and that language will go on the books July 1.  

“(W)e find that Dada is entitled to relief.  She was charged with a criminal offense that was eventually dismissed, and the fact that she was not formally arrested does not vitiate her right to expungement of the records related to this incident,” Baker wrote.
 

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