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Cline v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 15, 2016

Mindy M. Cline, Appellant-Petitioner,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Respondent.

         Appeal from the Jay Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No. 38C01-1510-XP-3 The Honorable Brian D. Hutchison, Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Chris M. Teagle Muncie, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Henry A. Flores, Jr. Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAILEY, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Mindy Cline ("Cline") appeals the denial of her petition for expungement, presenting the sole issue of whether the trial court abused its discretion. We reverse and remand.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In 2003, Cline was convicted of Forgery. In 2004, she was convicted of Dealing in Methamphetamine. On October 16, 2015, Cline filed a petition seeking expungement of the records of these convictions. The State did not oppose the petition.

         [¶3] The trial court conducted a hearing on November 12, 2015, at which Cline testified and the State presented no evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court took the matter under advisement, stating:

Well, Ms. Cline, obviously I remember you. I don't have any fond memories of you (inaudible) your criminal behavior. That doesn't mean - that doesn't mean that you should necessarily be deprived of this opportunity but it doesn't mean I'm not going to do this by (inaudible). I'm going to think about it for a while. I'm concerned by the - the offenses you committed. Number one, Forgery, a crime of dishonesty. Number two, dealing methamphetamine. Putting it bluntly, it's a pain in my ass. I have [to] deal with meth and heroin every damn day here and I've - I've had a belly full. I'm not doing favors for people that are causing these problems in Jay County. I'm also concerned by the fact that you've only been out of supervision for five years. And I could turn that around and I could say hey, way to go, you've been out five years and you haven't - haven't messed up. That's what I'm going to think about a little bit. I will rule on it within thirty days.

         (Tr. at 12.) On November 13, 2015, the trial court denied the petition for expungement, "based largely on the nature of the convictions, the severity of the offenses, and the relatively short duration since release from probation/parole on the most recent convictions (approx. 5 years)." (App. at 5.) Cline now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶4] Indiana Code Section 35-38-9-4 permits persons convicted of certain crimes to have their conviction records expunged. Through the expungement statutes, the "legislature intended to give individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes a second chance" by providing an opportunity for relief from the stigma associated with their criminal convictions. Taylor v. State, 7 N.E.3d 362, 367 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014). The expungement statutes are inherently remedial and, as such, should be liberally construed to advance the remedy for which they were enacted. Brown v. State, 947 N.E.2d 486, 490 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011), trans. denied.

         [¶5] Under Chapter 35-38-9, expungement is not available to sex or violent offenders or persons convicted of official misconduct, homicide offenses, human and sexual trafficking offenses, or sex crimes. See I.C. § 35-38-9-3(b); I.C. § 35-38-9-4(b); I.C. § 35-38-9-5(b). For qualifying offenses, the requirements for expungement generally depend on the level of offense of which the person was convicted. Depending on the offense level, expungement may be either mandatory or discretionary. Key v. State, 48 N.E.3d 333, 336 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015).

         [¶6] Cline sought relief pursuant to Indiana Code Section 35-3-9-4, applicable to qualified felonies other than Class D or Level 6 felonies. Subsection (e) of that statute provides that the trial court may order conviction records expunged if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the requisite period has elapsed (eight years from the date of conviction or three years from the completion of the sentence, or as shortened by prosecutorial agreement); (2) no charges are pending against the person; (3) applicable fines, costs, and restitution have been ...


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