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Allen County Expungement Petition Entitled to Day in Court

judge reviewing a document A petition for expungement denied by an Allen County judge has been reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
The Indiana Court of Appeals determined that the trial court incorrectly denied the petition without first setting a hearing. The case solidifies that a petition for expungement cannot be denied without a hearing unless the petition either 1) does not meet the statute’s requirements or 2) makes statements that demonstrate the petitioner is not entitled to relief.
Petition for Expungement Filed in Allen County
The petitioner filed a petition to expunge two Allen County cases: Class B felony for Aiding Robbery and a Class D felony for Resisting Law Enforcement. The petition was filed 10 years after the date of conviction and a little less than 5 years after the completion of his sentence.
The State objected to the petition for the following reasons:
a.    "the victim’s objection and reasons for objecting;
b.    the 'circumstances, seriousness, and dangerous nature of the offense;'
c.     Petitioner’s 'apparent lack of remorse and failure to accept responsibility;'
d.    the 'comparatively' short time since the conviction (less than ten years); and
e.    Petitioner’s violation of the terms and conditions of the reentry court."
Two weeks later, the trial court denied the man’s petition. The court wrote that it considered the petition, the State’s response, the petitioner’s criminal history, and “the offense for which the Defendant was originally convicted”.
The petitioner then filed a motion to correct error based on Section 35-38-9-9, which states that if the prosecuting attorney objects to the petition, the court shall set the matter for a hearing. The State’s subsequent response argued that under Indiana Trial Rule 12(C), the court could enter judgment based on the petition and response without first holding a hearing. The court neither responded or set a hearing on the motion, effectively denying it after 45 days.
“The Court Shall Set the Matter For Hearing”
The Court of Appeals determined that the statute is clear and unambiguous – if the prosecutor objects, “the court shall set the matter for hearing” (emphasis added). There are two limited circumstances when a court may deny a petition without a hearing:
1)    If the petition does not meet the requirements of Section 35-38-9-9(b)
2)    If the statements contained in the petition reveal the petitioner is not eligible for expungement
Since all of the statements in the man’s petition indicated he was eligible for expungement, the Court determined that the trial court incorrectly denied the petition without a hearing. In addition, the Court rejected the State’s argument that the expungement statute’s proceedings for setting a hearing conflict with Trial Rule 12(C).
Furthermore, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed the importance and legitimacy of the expungement statute by rejecting the State’s claims that requiring a hearing “would be a waste of judicial economy, overload busy prosecutors, and incentivize the State to not to reply to avoid unnecessary hearings.” The Court stated that the current system for expungement hearings strikes a balance between legislative goals, the judicial system’s resources, and petitioners’ due process rights.
Fort Wayne, Allen County Expungement Attorneys
Since Indiana’s expungement law was expanded in 2013, all sides of the legal community have struggled to both understand the law and ensure its correct implementation. With the significant benefits of expungement at stake, you need an experienced expungement attorney to ensure your case is being handled fairly. With a statewide practice, Gibson Law Office has successfully expunged criminal records in dozens of Indiana counties, including Ft. Wayne in Allen County