After a high school teacher in Bedford was convicted of a felony for maintaining a sexual relationship with his 17-year-old student, the teacher received alternative misdemeanor sentencing and, upon, successful completion of probation, had the sexual offense expunged from his criminal record.
Under current Indiana expungement laws, such a situation is legal, even though sex crimes are included on a list of offenses that cannot be removed from an offender’s record. However, offenders convicted of Level 6 felony sex crimes still may pleading their convictions to misdemeanors, thus making them eligible for expungement within five years.
But Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, a proponent of recent Indiana expungement legislation, told members of the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee that all sex crimes should remain on an offender’s record, even lower-level felonies. That’s why he authored Senate Bill 169, which seeks to prohibit sex offenders from having their misdemeanor convictions expunged.
“We don’t want that to happen, and it was never intended to do that,” Young said.
Both David Powell with the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Counsel and Larry Landis with the Indiana Public Defenders Council spoke in support of Young’s bill eliminating expungement of misdemeanor sex offenses, but Landis expressed some concern about how the bill could impact nonviolent sex offenders.
For example, sexual misconduct with a minor is generally found to be a Class D felony that, under SB 169, would not be eligible for misdemeanor expungement, Landis said. But the age of consent in Indiana is 16, and sexual misconduct with a minor can be considered a sexual relationship between a 22 year old and a 17 year old. Even if that relationship is consensual, Young’s bill would still prohibit the 22-year-old from having the offense erased from their record, a fact that Landis said was concerning.
However, Landis also told the committee that if the relationship between the 17-year-old and the 22-year-old was that of a student and teacher or other authority figure, the prohibition on expungement would still be appropriate.
The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee did not vote on SB 169 but instead held the vote until next week to allow Young time to further review the issue of civil forfeiture expungement, which is also included in his bill.
Additionally, SB 169 includes a provision that allows offenders who take a pre-trial diversion to have their arrest records expunged in the same way a convicted offender could have their conviction record expunged.
The date for the next Corrections and Criminal Law Committee meeting has not yet been set.