COA: Jury trials unavailable for expungements 

A Jasper County man who argued the trial court erred in denying his request to expunge a school suspension from his record and in not holding a jury trial has lost both arguments on appeal, with an appellate panel specifically holding that expungement issues are not entitled to a jury trial. 

In Thomas A. DeCola v. State of Indiana, 18A-MI-732, Thomas DeCola was suspended from Kankakee Valley High School in 2001 and, as a result, temporarily lost his driving privileges. Those privileges were restored in 2002, and 16 years later in 2018, DeCola petitioned the Jasper Superior Court to expunge all records pertaining to his 2001 suspension. 

The trial court denied the petition and a subsequent motion to correct error, finding that DeCola did not identify any relevant statutory basis for his claim. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed on Wednesday, with Judge John Baker writing that DeCloa’s claim that the trial court improperly denied his petition was “totally without merit.” 

“The Indiana Code does not allow for an individual to have a school suspension expunged from his records,” Baker wrote. “Rather, expungement as a remedy is limited to criminal arrests and convictions.” 

DeCola also argued the trial court erred when it did not conduct a jury trial, but the appellate court found that argument failed as a matter of substance. Specifically, Baker said the General Assembly had created a statutory framework in which the court, rather than the jury, is tasked with hearing and ruling on expungements. 

“It follows that expungement would have been deemed an equitable rather than a legal remedy,” Baker concluded. “Because expungement was not triable by a jury at common law, we hold that petitioners seeking expungement are not entitled to a jury trial.” 

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.