By Scott P. Wyatt, Member, Altman Poindexter & Wyatt
One of the first lessons I learned as a young deputy prosecutor was that even good people make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes lead to arrests or even criminal convictions. Unfortunately, even after a person completes their sentence, these arrests or convictions can act like a scarlet letter and negatively impact a person’s life. From applying for a job, obtaining an apartment, or even volunteering in a child’s or grandchild’s school, background checks are required. All too often, people lose out on these opportunities in life because of their past mistakes. Sometimes people don’t even apply because they are just simply embarrassed or afraid that people will learn of their past mistakes.
Fortunately, Indiana has decided that people deserve a second chance in life. For that reason, Indiana enacted laws that are generally referred to as The Second Chance Law. These laws allow a person to seal or expunge arrests and even convictions. This means that that any arrest or conviction records would be inaccessible to the general public. More importantly, the law specifically allows for a person who has been granted relief under The Second Chance Law to be treated as if the person had never been convicted.
Determining whether a person is eligible for relief under The Second Chance Law depends upon what records the person is seeking to seal or expunge. For example, if a person is seeking to expunge only arrest records, that person generally can pursue relief after one year from the date of the arrest. Misdemeanor convictions, however, generally require that more than 5 years have passed since the date of the conviction, unless the prosecutor agrees to an earlier period of time. Even certain felony convictions can be expunged, but the length of time that must have passed depends upon the type of felony in question. Additionally, a close review of felony convictions is necessary because not all felony convictions are eligible for expungement under The Second Chance Law.
A person interested in pursuing relief under The Second Chance Law needs to understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This means that if a person has multiple arrests and/or convictions appearing on their background check, then they need to file petitions to seal or expunge these records at the same time. Additionally, law requires that certain information be included in the petition for relief, and sets forth the procedures the parties and court must follow in order to be granted relief. Failure to properly follow these requirements or procedures can result in a person having their petition dismissed and possibly forfeiting their ability to obtain relief. Consequently, it is recommended that a person consult with an attorney to determine not only their eligibility under The Second Chance Law, but also to ensure that the proper procedures are followed.
Life sometimes can throw a curve that results in good people making mistakes. While there was a time when those mistakes would follow a person for the rest of their life, The Second Chance Law allows people to pursue exactly that — a second chance.
If you, someone in your family or just someone you know is in need of a second chance, contact an attorney who has experience with The Second Chance Law and finally put the past behind you.
Read this and other articles in the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of the IndyBOOMER magazine.