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Crowd at IPFW learns how "second-chance law" could help convictions be expunged

Friday, October 11, 2013 - 6:31 am

Dozens of people on Thursday morning came to IPFW to hear a panel discuss a recently enacted law that might, for those eligible, allow for a second chance in life, legally.

Commonly known as House Bill 1482 or Indiana's Second Chance Law, the legislation signed into law this year allows for the expungement of certain types of convictions - not all - from a person's record.

The panel, which included Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards and state Rep. Jud McMillin, R-68, who worked on the legislation, discussed some of the parameters of the law and their thoughts on how to best proceed with the petition - in that regard, as it was stressed repeatedly: While not required, an interested party should likely seek legal counsel in order to determine eligibility and ensure the petition is totally correct before it is filed.

Just as importantly, the panel discussed why the legislation was important.

"It was offensive to me that you might have had to live with a mistake that you made for the rest of your life," McMillin said, explaining that it was his belief that the criminal justice system was better served by promoting reformation, not vindictive justice. That means those who might have committed certain types of crimes and then been punished legally shouldn't automatically have to attempt to find work with a conviction from years past continuing to impact their chances at improving their lives in the present and future.

Some of the most basic tenets of the law are thus:

A petitioner can only file one request for expungement during their lifetime, though multiple convictions may be contained in the request.

Some petitions must be automatically granted; For example and in general -- again, check with legal counsel first -- misdemeanor convictions that are at least five years old, with the petitioner having completed their sentence and with no other charges pending and no other convictions on their record during that timeframe.

Felonies have different timeframes and some cases that include bodily harm could be eligible, but in some of those cases, other parameters could come into play, including prosecutorial approval, judicial approval or testimony/consent from a victim.

Those with convictions on a wide swath of violent crimes or sexual offenses are likely not eligible for expungement.

"This is a very expansive piece of legislation. You can take advantage of it in a way that can be a benefit to you," Richards said, explaining that a filing fee of $141 will be required that cannot be waived and stressing repeatedly that hiring legal counsel before filing the petition is the safest and wisest course of action.

Richards also explained that expungement shouldn't be viewed as a mechanism for those who might be approved to simply view it as a mechanism to reoffend without added consequence for past actions -- not only do various local and state legal agencies retain the original convictions, but the law itself could come under fire if, for example, an embezzler has their record expunged, an employer hires that person, the person embezzles again, and the employer complains to state legislators that expungement allowed them to be victimized.

"This was a huge leap of faith on everybody's part," Richards said. "That's the kind of conduct that could easily lead to changes to this legislation, or make it disappear entirely."

Local attorney Quinton Ellis, who was also on the panel, expanded on that by explaining it in basic terms: "You can't do this more than once. It is a second-chance law. It will not be a third-chance law. You have to be a success story."