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D.A. v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

September 1, 2016

D.A., Appellant-Petitioner,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Respondent.

         Appeal from the Madison Circuit Court 6, No. 48C06-1408-MI-379 The Honorable Dennis D. Carroll, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 48A02-1504-MI-215

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Andrew M. Barker Barker Hancock & Cohron LLC Noblesville, Indiana.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Henry A. Flores, Jr. Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.


         Indiana's comprehensive new expungement statutes allow the expungement of records from arrests, juvenile delinquency allegations, criminal charges, and criminal convictions. Here, D.A. successfully petitioned for the expungement of his criminal conviction records. He then filed a second petition asking for the expungement of civil forfeiture records. Because the trial court correctly held that Indiana's expungement statutes do not reach civil forfeiture records, we affirm the denial of D.A.'s second expungement petition.

         Facts and Procedural History

         During D.A.'s drug-related arrest in 2002, police seized $1, 340, including $620 of marked money used in controlled cocaine buys. The State charged D.A. with two felonies- possession of cocaine and dealing in marijuana-and he was convicted on both counts. The State separately filed a civil complaint for the forfeiture of the unmarked $720, and the money was ultimately forfeited in a default judgment.

         Years later, in 2014, D.A. petitioned for the expungement of several criminal conviction records, including records from his felony possession of cocaine and dealing in marijuana convictions. The trial court granted the petition, ordering the expungement of certain records related to D.A.'s convictions. D.A. then filed a second expungement petition, this time for the records of the $720 civil forfeiture. The trial court denied the petition, finding that forfeiture actions are civil in nature and the expungement statutes apply to arrests and criminal convictions-but not to civil forfeitures.

         D.A. appealed that denial, and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court in a divided opinion. D.A. v. State, 49 N.E.3d 580 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015). The majority first concluded that the expungement statutes are ambiguous about what records may be expunged. Id. at 586-87. It then interpreted the statutes to reach civil forfeitures when they are "ancillary to and premised on criminal activity for which the defendant was convicted." Id. at 587. Judge Barnes dissented, arguing that applying the expungement statutes to civil forfeitures adds language to the statutes that the General Assembly excluded and provides preferential treatment to those convicted of crimes. Id. at 588-89 (Barnes, J., dissenting).

         The State sought transfer, which we have granted. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A). We now address a single issue of first impression: whether civil forfeiture records may be expunged under Indiana's expungement statutes.[1]

         Standard of Review

         We review this issue of statutory construction de novo. Suggs v. State, 51 N.E.3d 1190, 1193 (Ind. 2016).

         Discussion and Decision

         Until recently, Indiana's statutory scheme governing expungement offered little relief to those wanting to restrict access to their criminal records. Joseph C. Dugan, Note, I Did My Time: The Transformation of Indiana's Expungement Law, 90 Ind. L.J. 1321, 1335 (2015). In fact, Indiana's original expungement law allowed the expungement of only arrest records-and even then under strict limits. See id. (citing Ind. Code § 35-38-5-1(a) (2008) (repealed 2014)).

         Then, in 2013, the General Assembly enacted new, more comprehensive, expungement statutes. Ind. Code Ch. 35-38-9. These statutes, among other changes, extended expungement to reach misdemeanor and felony conviction records in addition to arrest records. Ind. Code §§ 35-38-9-1 to -5. But the overhaul of Indiana expungement law did not stop there; rather, amendments in both 2014 and 2015 marked a continuing and significant legislative effort to broaden expungement availability.

         Most notably, the 2014 amendments lowered the petitioner's burden of proof, allowed expungement of more types of records, loosened rules for filing multiple petitions, and relaxed prerequisites to filing a petition. P.L. 181-2014; see also Taylor v. State, 7 N.E.3d 362, 366 n.3 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014). The 2015 amendments then allowed expungement of criminal charges and juvenile delinquency ...

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