Indiana Bill Seeks to Improve Current Expungement Law

Last year Indiana passed an expungement law, known as the Second Chance Law, which permits expungement of certain convictions. The Second Chance Law was welcome news for former offenders in Indiana, but it is also a very complex law and several problems have arisen in the past several months. Indiana House Bill 1155 (HB 1155), which was recently introduced, seeks to improve the expungement law to ensure former offenders get the second chance they deserve

Since the Second Chance Law went into effect on July 1,2013, lawmakers have had time to review how the law has worked in practice; House Bill 1155 is intended to fine-tune the law to ensure former offenders get the second chance they deserve. State Representative Jud McMillan, co-author of the bill, has explained that, “House Bill 1155 is not an expansion of the current expungement law; rather it is a bill to update and amend the Indiana Code to address several inconsistencies as well as make the overall process run more smoothly.”

What Indiana House Bill 1155 Will Fix

HB 1155 will cure several issues that have arisen under the expungement law. The language of the current law suggests that if a petition is submitted with errors, those mistakes could ruin the applicant’s chances to have their record expunged. Indiana only allows an individual to apply for expungement once in their lifetime, and offenders are rightfully fearful of applying with incorrect information and losing their one chance. Under the current law, if a petition is denied, there is a three-year waiting period to reapply. House Bill 1155 would change the language of the statute to allow petitioners to amend the petition to make certain it gets filed successfully.

How Indiana Expungement Petitions Are Currently Handled

Currently, all individuals who petition for an expungement are required to pay a $141 filing fee, and the law forbids fee waivers for those who are unable to pay. Under HB 1155, the petitioner can request that the court, it its discretion, grant a waiver or reduction of that filing fee. The bill would also add a new section to the Indiana Code, which would prohibit a person from waiving the right to an expungement as part of a plea agreement. HB 1155 also amends who can access expunged records, allowing a defense attorney or the probation department to access expunged records if authorized by a court order.

HB 1155 passed the House on January 23, 2014 and was referred to the Senate. On February 4, it was referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it remains currently to be reviewed. If passed, HB 1155 is set to go into effect on July 1, 2014, which is exactly one year after the Second Chance Law went into effect.

While House Bill 1155 does not make any major changes to expungement law in terms of who is eligible for this relief, it will hopefully make the process run much more smoothly and helps ensure those that are eligible for a second chance are able to actually benefit from that relief. It is a great sign that the Indiana legislature is already looking to improve this law and is striving to make sure it accomplishes its purpose.

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