Criminal records exist to protect the public from individuals who might pose a risk to others. For example, background checks help ensure that those with a history of abuse don’t wind up hired by a daycare center or grade school.

Unfortunately, criminal records can also be a burden on someone who made one mistake in the past and has since become a contributing member of society. Everyone from potential employers to landlords can perform a background check and choose to not hire you, promote you or rent to you because of a previous conviction.

For Indiana residents with a single previous criminal conviction, it is sometimes possible to have the state seal your records. Thanks to the relatively new Second Chance Law, Indiana residents with qualifying convictions can request that the state seals their records.

What’s the difference between sealing your records and expunging them?

In some states, expungements allow for the removal of negative marks from someone’s permanent criminal record as maintained by the state courts or law enforcement authorities. Indiana will not remove blemishes from your record, but it will seal those negative marks from the portion of your criminal record accessible by non-law enforcement related entities.

In other words, a potential employer or landlord attempting to perform a background check won’t find a conviction if you successfully petitioned the courts to seal it, but police and the courts will still be able to see and use that previous conviction against you if you get into future legal trouble.

What kinds of offenses qualify for an expungement in Indiana?

Not every criminal offense is eligible for record sealing in Indiana. Only misdemeanor offenses are eligible for fee-free filing, and in that scenario, only if the defendant never plead guilty or got convicted.

Otherwise, there will be a fee of $157 for the filing, as well as a waiting period of between 5 and 10 years for the expungement. The more serious the offense, the longer the waiting period. Felonies that caused bodily injury to another can qualify after 10 years, provided that the person doesn’t have pending charges and the prosecutor agrees in writing to the expungement. Less serious offenses won’t require such a long waiting period or prosecutor approval.

An expungement can help you get your life back on track and reduce how a conviction impacts the rest of your life. Learning more about whether you’re eligible for an expungement can help you move on with your life after facing criminal charges.