Expunging DCS and CHINs Cases in Indiana

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Expunging DCS and CHINs cases

Under Indiana law, it is not just regular misdemeanor and felony cases that can be expunged and hidden (or in some cases removed) from you record. You can also remove DCS substantiated or unsubstantiated reports of abuse and Child in Need of Services (CHINs) cases from your record. While these two types of reports and cases may not seem to have an immediate effect on you after the matter is closed, there are several collateral consequences that may apply to you such as being ineligible to go on your child or other family member’s school field trip, job placement with school systems or other human service institutions, as well as being ineligible to adopt in the future. This status could stick with you for a number of years. Therefore, most people usually wish to have their rights restored which is where we come in.

The Department of Child Services maintains what is called the “Child Protection Index” which is used to organize and access data regarding substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect that DCS receives throughout Indiana. This index allows child welfare supervisors and family case managers the ability to review any information regarding these two types of cases. So how do we deal with this information and get it removed from your record if it is not longer applicable to your current life situation? Through an expungement which means “the removal or deletion of all information maintained by DCS concerning a report, assessment, or determination relating to an incident or condition of child abuse or neglect.” I.C. 31-33-27-1.

When a petition for expungement is filed with the courts, there are a variety of factors the judge will consider including:

  • The best interests of the child;
  • The age of the person during the person’s contact with the juvenile court or law enforcement agency;
  • The nature of any allegations;
  • Whether there was an informal adjustment or an adjudication;
  • The disposition of the case;
  • The manner in which the person participated in any court ordered or supervised services;
  • The time during which the person has been without contact with the juvenile court or with any law enforcement agency;
  • Whether the person acquired a criminal record; and
  • The person’s current status.

I.C. 31-39-8-3. Additionally, it is laid out that the court may grant the petition if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that there is little likelihood that the petitioner will be a future perpetrator of child abuse or neglect and the information maintained by DCS has insufficient current probative value to justify its retention in the departments records for future reference.
That said, it is fairly open what a court is willing to consider when determining whether to expunge these types of cases. It should also be noted that the language of the statute cites a judge may grant the petition for expungement. Additionally, there is almost always a hearing in front of a judge for these types of expungements unless waived by the parties. This is why it is extremely important to speak with an attorney well-versed in expungements to put forth your best case as to why and how things have changed.

Expunging Juvenile History

Most people tend to think that whatever happened when they were under 18 and charged as juveniles disappears without anyone ever able to see what happened once they turn 18. Unfortunately this is not the case. The records of the juvenile court are available to the public without a court order if:

  • The allegations are murder or a felony;
  • An aggregate of two unrelated misdemeanors if the child is at least twelve years old at the time the offense were committed; or
  • An aggregate of five unrelated misdemeanors if the child is less than twelve years old.

What is available to the public is the name, age, nature of offense, case summary and other court documents. The photograph of the juvenile is only available if they were found to be delinquent. I.C. 31-39-2-8. A juvenile delinquency record can affect you when applying to jobs, applying to serve in one of the nation’s military branches such as the Army or Marine Corps, prospective colleges and universities if applying, and immigration issues often arise as well. Any person may petition a juvenile court at any time to remove the courts files, the files of law enforcement agencies, and the files of any person or agency who provided services to a child under a court order. The factors considered by the court are the same listened above under I.C. 31-39-8-3.

Expunging Dismissal or Diversion Criminal Cases

Finally, I cannot tell you how many times we have talked to people who thought just because their case was dismissed in any way, or because they were accepted into the diversion program that their case records would just go. This is not the case! An expungement must be filed and petitioned for to destroy and remove the records having to do with the case. Luckily, these types of cases are non-discretionary with the judge and prosecutor so as long as the petition is drafted properly with the appropriate parties served and all information that is statutorily required to be in the petition and order are included, it is likely to be granted.

Individuals in this situation must wait one year from the original arrest date to be able to petition to get the records destroyed (unless they obtain permission to file early from the prosecutor).Once granted, it is up to the petition to distribute the order to the agencies which hold the criminal records having to do with the case. Lastly, there is no amount of time given for when cases are automatically expunged. It doesn’t matter if the case is 25 years old or older, it is still out there and tied to your record. Again, people often tell us they figured a case was off their record due to it being a very old case. This is not the case.

With so much on the line, it’s essential that you hire an experienced Indianapolis Expungement lawyer to help fight for your rights and enable you to have a better future. Whether it is clearing up a CHINs case or a few bad choices when you were younger, the Indianapolis expungement attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC. are here to help. We have filed for expungement all over the state of Indiana and have the knowledge of how to best tailor your case to your situation. Give us a call at (317) 870-0019 or email us at info@banksbrower.com.