TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) — The Indiana House passed a criminal records expungement bill earlier this week. Now, it's headed to the Senate.
The House approved the bill that would allow some arrests and convictions to be expunged, or erased, after a waiting period.
Indiana currently has a "sealing" law that allows people to shield their public record if a misdemeanor or class D felony.
Supporters of the bill say it’s to help ex-offenders find work they couldn't before with records.
And they think some label offenders as bad guys when they are just are people who've made bad decisions or mistakes.
But here in Terre Haute, it's getting mixed reviews.
Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse is worried about what the specific guidelines are.
“the property crimes we have, they're not violent crimes. If you expunge that, someone that would be locked up for breaking into our houses, under this proposal, they would have not record five years after they did their time. So we couldn't do a habitual offender on someone like that, and lock them up permanently, so they can't get out and do that again. They'd be out on the streets and able to do it again,” said Chief Plasse.
Now, there are limits.
There is a waiting period of at least five years after a sentence is completed. Violent or sex crimes can't be expunged.
Which is why Judge Phillip Adler thinks this bill is a good idea.
Judge Adler has been a judge for 16 years. Before that, he was the Vigo County prosecutor for 10 years.
“I mean, let's face it. What if someone had a youthful indiscretion. And they got arrested and convicted of public intoxication, shoplifting, a minor drug possession offense, should that person be saddled with that conviction which might impede his or her ability to get a good job once they become much older?” said Judge Adler.
They might be on opposite sides, but, they're both trying to fight for justice.
“And I think it also adds an incentive for those people who have been convicted of these low-level crimes to do well, to stay out of trouble!” said Judge Adler.
“I agree. If they didn't do it for five years, that's a step towards not doing it again, but maybe that should be expanded to maybe ten years…if someone made a mistake, give that person another chance. I'm ok with that,” said Chief Plasse.
Similar legislation has failed to pass past sessions. But this time it's picking up a lot of support.
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