Legislators in the Indiana House of Representatives are taking a second look at a bill that would expand the number of crimes people can request be expunged from their records, even certain felonies.
In general, sex offenses and any crimes that involve direct violence against an individual are not eligible to be expunged. But felonies like burglary, drug dealing and other drug-related crimes would be eligible 10 years after a sentence has been served for the crime. Class D felonies, like stalking and animal cruelty, would also qualify after five years.
These changes could have a major effect on the hiring process for convicted criminals. If it passes, they could legally answer “no” if an employer asks if they've been convicted of a felony.
Many in law enforcement are divided about House Bill 1482. Many prosecutors say the bill is a bad idea. They say having all of a person's history is important when a crime has been committed, no matter how long ago.
“Any offense that we look at, any time someone is accused of an offense in our determination process, when we're looking at the elements of the crime they're accused of,” Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill says, “we also look at their past history, and those have a connection "
Prosecutors say a person's history bears a lot of weight on how a case will be prosecuted.
“When we look at what we're going to do with resolving a case, whether we're going to offer a plea agreement or whether we're going to go to trial,” Hill says, “we absolutely rely on the record in that case.”
But some say not giving an ex-offender the chance to become a productive citizen will lead to more crimes being committed.
“If ex-offenders can't get employed, if they can't get housing, if they can't get transportation,” Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers says, “It's those three elements that tend to push someone, or they make a choice to go back and re-offend because they felt trapped in a system that they can't make it in.”
Of course, police say demonstrating the willingness and ability to change is a key element.
“I think they need to show evidence in their life, and we deal with evidence,” Rogers says. “So let's see the evidence in your life that you're changing the course.”
House Bill 1482 was amended in the Senate and passed. It was then sent back to the House for approval. If the amended version passes the House, it will then be sent to the governor's office.
If the bill does become law, victims would have the right to petition the courts not to expunge the crimes.