Sex Offenders and Expungement

In May 2013, Governor Mike Pence approved new expungement laws allowing persons with a criminal history greater tools and opportunities to seal or expunge prior convictions. One of the purposes of the revised law was to help eliminate barriers that prevent individuals from being employable after successfully completing their sentence. In today’s slow job market and economic recession, it appears that the Indiana General Assembly believed that these persons who have paid their debt to society and maintained good behavior should be given a better opportunity to get back to work.

Thus, effective July 1, 2013, the new expungement laws take effect. In short, the new laws allow for expungement or “sealing” of certain criminal convictions depending upon particular criteria. Criminal convictions are classified into different categories, each of which has its own procedures and qualifications to obtaining the expungement or sealing of records. The more serious crimes have more stringent qualifications and allow for more discretion to the court to approve or deny the request.

One of such more serious crimes which will undoubtedly raise questions by victims and those convicted is the sex offense crime that requires the offender to register with the Indiana Sex Offender Registry. Persons required to register as a Sex Offender have their contact and conviction information posted online. Many people first learning of the new expungement law will probably question whether the law will remove the requirements to register as a Sex Offender or follow the particular requirements and restrictions (such as residency restrictions, notice of relocation, etc.).

Victims will be happy to know, and offenders will be equally upset to find, that the new expungement laws disqualify sex offense crimes as defined in the statute. However, it is interesting to note that although sex offense crimes do not qualify for expungement, the law still includes a provision that addresses any conviction that required registering as a sex offender, as seen in the following:

If a person is required to register as a sex offender for a felony which has been expunged pursuant to Ind. Code 35-38-9-5:

 1. The expungement does not affect the operation of the sex offender registry web site or any person’s ability to access the person’s records. The expungement status also does not affect any records required to be maintained concerning sex or violent offenders, or any registration requirement imposed upon the person.

2. However, the expunged conviction must be clearly marked as expunged on the sex offender registry website.

 Ind. Code 35-38-9-6(e).

So apparently in the event an expungement does occur of any type of crime where a person was required to register as a sex offender (perhaps a crime that is not statutorily labeled a “sex offense” but where the court found it appropriate to order the defendant to still register on the registry?) the person will not be removed from the Sex Offender Registry. The person is still required to follow any registration requirements under the Registry. The only relief the law would allow is that the words “expunged” will be present on the registry web site.

So even if a registered offender obtains any expungement relief, the information will still be available on the Registry.

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