The consequences of an arrest or criminal charge to you and your family do not stop once you leave the courtroom. The fact that you were arrested, charged by the State, or convicted of a crime, is a public record that follows you throughout life. In this modern age of technology, records of your legal troubles are available to potential employers, businesses, schools, and financial institutions with astonishing ease and speed. A simple arrest can hinder your ability to gain employment, obtain housing, and even participate in your child’s school activities. This could be true even if you were never convicted! Once your criminal case is over, whatever the result, you may find yourself asking:
- How long will this be on my record?
- Can all of my rights be restored?
- How do I answer questions about my criminal history?
Every expungement situation is different, and they all require an attorney with the experience, skill, and attention to detail to minimize the effects a criminal record can have on your life. The Stracci Law Group has successfully handled expungements of records ranging from a simple misdemeanor arrest to complex matters involving multiple cases, courts, and counties. Whether you were arrested once and the case was dismissed or have been convicted of multiple felonies, we know how to assess the state of your criminal record, draft and litigate detailed expungement petitions to maximize their effect, and assist you with reaching your goals if the expungement is granted. We actively research the details of your case to make sure no record or agency is left out and follow up to make sure the court’s order is followed.
Understanding the Problem
In Indiana, "expungement" usually means that your record is sealed from public view. If you have a publicly available criminal record, it can present a variety of problems. An arrest, even without a conviction, may keep you from getting a particular job. Certain convictions can keep you from renting a house or apartment or deprive you of your right to own a firearm. Some of the most common criminal record problems include:
- Arrests Without Conviction
- Misdemeanor and Converted Felony Convictions
- Felony Convictions
Learn more about expunging your criminal record:
- Arrests Without Conviction: Arrests almost always result in criminal charges. That being said, those charges often end in dismissal. Whether due to a bad case, insufficient evidence, or your participation in a deferral or diversion program, the fact that you were arrested, what you were arrested for, and the criminal charges themselves will remain on your record. The Constitution guarantees you are innocent until you are actually convicted. Unfortunately, many employers, financial institutions, and organizations do not share that sentiment. Fortunately, in Indiana, if you were arrested, but the case ended without a conviction, you are entitled to have the record of your arrest and charging sealed from public view one year after the arrest. This is true if you have had one arrest or ten, and even if you have been convicted of a crime in other cases.
- Misdemeanor and Converted Felony Convictions: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” For those convicted of a misdemeanor, or a lowest-level felony, this is the most dreaded question on a job application. But did you know that the question is illegal? Pursuant to Indiana law, employers may only ask, "Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime that has not been expunged by a court?", or similar language that exempts expunged records. A misdemeanor conviction is eligible to be expunged or sealed 5 years after the date of conviction; however, it can be done sooner with the agreement of the prosecutor. In most cases of Class D or Level 6 Felonies, the conviction can be reduced to a misdemeanor, making them eligible for expungement after 5 years (or sooner with the agreement of the prosecutor) as well. While these low-level convictions may not seem like a big deal, they are a significant source of employment and support discrimination. In Indiana, however, it is unlawful to “suspend, expel, refuse to employ, refuse to admit, refuse to grant or renew a license, permit, or certificate necessary to engage in any activity, occupation, or profession, or otherwise discriminate against” any person because of a record that has been expunged.
- Serious and “Less Serious” Felony Convictions: While felony conviction records can create the greatest impediment to moving on with life, they are also the most difficult to expunge, and their expungement can result in the least amount of benefit. Felony convictions are not eligible for expungement until 8 years after the date of conviction or 3 years after completion of the sentence, whichever comes last. Unlike arrests, misdemeanors, and Class D or Level 6 felonies, “serious” and “less serious” felony convictions are not automatically eligible for expungement. That means that even if you qualify, a court hearing is required and a judge can refuse to expunge your record for a variety of reasons. For “serious” felony convictions, even if your petition is granted, the conviction may still appear on your record with a notation that it has been expunged. If your conviction was for a sex offense, your conviction might be sealed, but you will still be required to register and will appear on the registry. Nevertheless, expungement of these records may be the last step to fully transitioning back to society, removing barriers to employment, housing, and assistance.
What to Expect If You Are Seeking Expungement
If you are seeking expungement of your criminal arrest or conviction records, you will want to make sure it is done effectively, efficiently, and thoroughly. The first step in any expungement process is to clearly identify your goals. Do you want to avoid employment or housing discrimination? Do you want to obtain financial assistance for your family or education? Are you trying to have your right to possess a firearm restored? Depending on the nature of your criminal record and the underlying facts, some of these goals may not be attainable. Far too often, those previously convicted of a crime seek expungement at great cost when no practical benefit comes from it. Others attempt to have their record expunged pro se (by acting on their own without the assistance of an attorney) only to have their criminal record reappear again and again.
At Stracci Law Group, our attorneys start the process of expungement by making sure we understand what is important to you so that you understand what can be done. We then work diligently to catalog all of your arrests and convictions and investigate those incidents to make sure that no agency, court, or service provider’s public records are left out of the process. If not enough time has passed, we work with you to build an argument for us to present to the prosecuting attorney as to why they should consent to early expungement of your records. If you were convicted of certain “serious” or “less serious” felonies, our team of experienced criminal trial attorneys is prepared to present your best case for expungement to a judge.
A “wild” youth can result in arrests that are forgotten until they cost you a job. And convictions can only be expunged once in a person’s lifetime. Without a strong, knowledgeable, and thorough advocate on your side, you may end up with a criminal record that punishes you long after the gavel sounds. Whether your record is a single arrest or a major felony conviction, expungements require careful, thorough, and resourceful preparation.
Schedule a Free, Thorough Consultation About Your Northwest Indiana Expungement
The Stracci Law Group is committed to helping you put the past behind you. Paul Stracci has spent his entire career helping people with criminal cases, big and small, get past their legal troubles and on with life. If you are seeking expungement of your criminal arrest or conviction records in Northwest Indiana, we invite you to contact us to learn more about your case. We offer free, comprehensive, and confidential consultations, and we want you to feel confident that we are the best choice to investigate your situation and help you navigate the complex process of sealing your criminal record. A criminal history can cause significant and serious consequences for you for the rest of your life. To discuss your record with the Stracci Law Group, please call us at (219) 525-1000 today!