New Law Could Mask Past Offenses

By Max Resnik

June 30, 2011 Updated Jun 30, 2011 at 5:41 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A new law going into effect tomorrow, July 1, could help prospective employees find work. It could also prohibit prospective employers from discovering that their applicants may have committed a felony or misdemeanor.

Under the new law, Hoosiers will be able to mask class D felonies or misdemeanors from criminal background checks. These crimes include things like theft, drunken driving, drug charges, prostitution and public intoxication. They do not include any violent crimes.

Hoosiers will also be able to mask past charges or acquittals. In either instance, eight years must have passed before an individual can apply for the change of record. The crimes will not however be able to be masked from police or prosecutors in the event an individual commits a similar crime.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards says it is important that police and prosecutors still have access to these records.

“When you're charging somebody for a subsequent felony can you go back and prove that they are a habitual offender? These kinds of convictions may make a difference for sentence enhancements on driving cases, so they've got to be available to law enforcement.”

Richards goes on to say that she does not believe this law does enough for employers. She says she recognizes that people need work, especially in this economy, but does not believe employers should have to make risky hires.

“I don't think this law does a very good job in helping people to decide are you a career criminal and this is just your first one or are you somebody that's made a mistake and never do it again?”

Michelle Kraus, a local defense attorney, believes this is a step in the right direction. Kraus believes this could serve as the “stepping stone” towards a substantial expungement law in Indiana. Kraus says this new law is especially critical for former defendants who were acquitted of charges or had charges dismissed as the result of mistaken identity or faulty evidence. She asks why an individuals should suffer from being charged with a crime that they were wrongly accused of.

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