The Morgan County Prosecutor is challenging Indiana’s new expungement law that allows people convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felonies to get their record expunged. Supporters of the law claim it will help them get back to work, but the prosecutor said it undermines the judicial system and does not take into account victims of the crimes.
“Why even have a judge at all. Simply say, ‘I’ve gone to the clerk. I haven’t been arrested for five years. Take my record off. We can just do this like parking tickets,” said Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega, who is challenging at least two local cases in court.
A hearing on the first expungement case that Sonnega is challenging was held on Friday. The individual had agreed to a lesser charge of reckless driving several years ago, and he wants his record wiped clean. One of his original charges was an OWI. Martinsville attorney Glen Koch is representing him and one other man making the same request in court.
“He was charged with a felony child molest. That led to trial. It was declared a mistrial, and afterward, there was a plea agreement,” said Koch. This client pleaded guilty to battery which is a misdemeanor.
“Once you have served your time, your punishment is done. You shouldn’t carry that with you beyond what’s necessary,” said Koch.
Records can also be sealed for someone who was arrested but not prosecuted for a crime or whose conviction was overturned.
Those interested in the new option can expunge a misdemeanor conviction after five years, but if the initial charge was a felony, the wait time is eight years after they were arrested.
“There are so many voices that this statute slams the door in the courtroom on, and says, ‘judge, you can’t consider that,’ and it takes away the courts authority and duty to decide each case, case by case on the evidence of the case,” said Sonnega.
The man guilty of reckless driving will hear from a judge in several days about his request. The second case was continued to January.