Deadlocked justices reinstate COA order allowing juvenile arrest expungement

After the four participating justices who heard arguments in an expungement case Thursday became deadlocked over the case’s proper disposition, the Indiana Supreme Court reinstated the Court of Appeals order granting a juvenile expungement petition.

The justices followed Appellate Rule 58, which is designed to move a case when the high court hits gridlock.

After hearing arguments in the case of T.A. v. State, 62 N.E.3d 436 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), which dealt with the question of whether an expungement petition can be granted if the petitioner is arrested after the petition is filed, Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justices Robert Rucker, Steve David and Mark Massa were evenly divided over what the outcome of the case should be, according to an order posted Friday but dated Thursday, the same day as the arguments. Justice Geoffrey Slaughter did not participate in the arguments.

In the case, 19-year-old T.A. had filed for expungement of juvenile arrests when he was subsequently arrested for an apparent misdemeanor. His counsel argued that under the plain language of Indiana Code 35-38-9-1(e), his petition could still be granted because he had no pending charges “upon receipt” of the petition in court, or the date it was filed.

The state, however, urged the justices to hold that courts have discretion when granting such petitions. The trial court denied T.A.’s petition, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed and remanded with instructions to grant it.

Under Appellate Rule 58(C), when “the Supreme Court is evenly divided after transfer has been granted, the decision of the Court of Appeals shall be reinstated.” Thus, the Thursday order reinstated the COA’s reversal of the trial court’s denial of T.A.’s petition, allowing him to have his juvenile arrests expunged. Petitions for rehearing will not be allowed, according to the order.

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