We’d like to think that once a person has paid their debt to society, they should have a second chance. They should be able to start over, find a place to live, find work and enjoy the same opportunities as anyone else.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
A criminal record can be a drag on you in ways you might never have expected.
If you are in this situation, you are not alone. By some estimates, 70 to 100 million Americans have some type of criminal history on their records.
Difficulty finding employment and housing
It can be very difficult for people to find employment when they have a criminal record. If they have served time behind bars, they will have a gap in their resumes. On top of that, employers may be able to ask them to disclose whether they have any criminal history, sometimes by checking a box. In a time when employers often receive hundreds of online applications for every job opening, this box makes it easy for an employer to put an application in the reject pile without ever speaking to the applicant.
In recent years, activists and lawmakers have recognized how this situation creates a great drag on the potential of millions of people. Some states and local governments have implemented “ban the box” laws prohibiting employers from asking about the criminal histories of most applicants.
Indiana’s state government has not been welcoming to these efforts. After Indianapolis passed a ban-the-box ordinance in 2014, the state government passed a law prohibiting local governments from enacting these laws.
A criminal history can also interfere with finding housing. Financial institutions are reluctant to lend to people with criminal histories, and landlords often conduct criminal background checks on applicants for housing.
While it’s not a complete fix, expungement can help people in this situation.
Under Indiana law, the expungement process allows people who have been convicted of crimes to have their criminal records sealed.
Indiana’s expungement laws are complicated, and your chances of getting your records sealed depend upon how old you were at the time of the offense and the severity of the offense. Generally, people convicted as juveniles have a much easier time than adults getting their records sealed. Generally, expungement is not available to adults who were convicted of violent crimes or sex crimes.
We should note here that having one’s record sealed doesn’t necessarily take away all the negative stigma of a criminal history. For instance, it won’t eliminate all records of the offense on the Internet, meaning that employers and landlords may discover an applicant’s history with an Internet search.
However, many people can attest that expungement has helped them. If you’ve got a criminal history on your record, you have a heavy burden weighing you down. Expungement can ease that burden to some extent.