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Keffer Barnhart LLP Helps Client Clarify and Expand Expungement Law

B.S. came to Keffer Barnhart LLP with a problem.  After he waited the appropriate amount of time, he filed and received an expungement of a prior conviction.  However, the trial court judge that reviewed his case determined that he was entitled to completely expunge all of the records that were connected to his prior conviction.

Specifically in his case, B.S. was convicted of a misdemeanor offense that was later vacated through post-conviction relief, a process similar to an appeal where a conviction can be vacated or modified.  However, post-conviction relief does not seal those records and they are included in the public records for anyone to view and examine.  And with access through the internet, those records can be particularly easy to obtain.  As a result, B.S.’s criminal history and case information were still available for public record.  Using Indiana’s expungement law, B.S. filed a petition with a trial court and requested that the trial court seal his criminal case records and post-conviction case records from public view.  Because of a gap in the law, the trial court agreed to seal B.S.’s criminal case records, but it denied his request to seal the post-conviction case records.  That meant that, even though B.S.’s criminal case was sealed, his criminal records were still available for public record in the post-conviction case.  Although he had received an expungement, anyone was able to look up his post-conviction records and conclude that he had a prior criminal conviction in his past.  That was his problem and his concern. He technically received an expungement, but not really.    

B.S. came to Keffer Barnhart LLP after that ruling and retained the firm to represent him on appeal.  The firm appealed his case to the Indiana Court of Appeals and argued that the trial court made a mistake when it determined that not all of B.S.’s records could be expunged.  The Indiana Court of Appeals initially noted, “[w]e have not yet examined the most recently-enacted expungement statute, making this an issue of first impression.”  B.S. v. State, 2018 WL 1146489 (Ind. Ct. App. March 5, 2018).

The Court went onto explain that the intent and the policy behind the statute allow individuals who qualify “to escape the stigma of a criminal conviction by ‘sealing off the paper trail establishing that there ever was a conviction.’”  Id. (quoting J.B., 27 N.E.3d at 340).  The Court held that his expungement should necessarily include the sealing of his post-conviction records because to hold otherwise would render his expungement statute meaningless.  The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and directed it to expunge all of B.S.’s records including his post-conviction records.  Id.  Moving forward, the law through the B..S. decision has now been clarified that an expungement now includes post-conviction records.      

The Court of Appeals’ Opinion can be found here:

http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/03051801msm.pdf

More information on Post-Conviction Relief can be found here:

https://www.kefferbarnhart.com/criminal-defense/after-you-ve-been-sentenced/post-conviction-relief/).    

More information on how to get records expungement here:

https://www.kefferbarnhart.com/blog/2017/october/how-do-i-get-my-records-expunged-/

As the B.S. decision and our prior blogs explain, expungement law is developing area of the law.  There is little doubt that as information becomes more and more accessible to more and more people, seeking an expungement and knowing your rights under the statute and the law will be key in obtaining the relief you want and may be entitled to under that law. 

Do you think you qualify for an expungement or have questions about it?  If so, contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized history.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.