Indiana job seekers who also happen to have non-violent criminal pasts are to be treated with a little less prejudice.
A new law went into effect July 1, which allows ex-convicts to mask their backgrounds.
The offender has a legal right to petition the courts to limit access up to eight years after the conviction.
That is, if they remain clean.
The law been called the “legalization of perjury” by opponents.
According to Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams, if the court’s record is restricted, the person can actually say on a job application that they have not been convicted of the crimes listed in the restriction.
If you’ve committed a Class D felony or misdemeanor (which includes theft, drunken driving, drug charges or prostitution, basically any non-violent crime), you can block it so prospective employers won’t see it.
This doesn’t mean it’s expunged from your criminal record database, though.
I must have been thinking like a lawyer, oddly, because at first read, I agreed with Noble Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch’s issue.
“It maybe goes too far – even basically giving a person the right to lie to an employer,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s the way we should be going.”
I wanted to know what happens if an employer goes into the background check and discovers candidate X has been convicted of meth use. Candidate X did not say anything on the job application of his jail time for his addiction to nail polish remover and Sudafed.
Does this then mean the candidate could be accused of lying and lose the opportunity anyway?
It is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds that they were convicted of a felony in the past, but it does happen. It just can’t always be proved.
Since there was limited information on the Internet about the law, I went directly to the man who introduced it – Rep. Eric Turner.
I was glad to be chastened after he debunked my legal lying suspicions.
Turner told me the law says that if you petition the court to seal your records, “that prohibits them from releasing it [to anyone] except to another law enforcement agency.”
Now that sounds more promising.
Of course, with social networking, “nothing is going to prohibit a news article” from being released online, Turner said. “It’s out there.”
But the law will benefit the person who, for example, made a mistake 40 years ago but still may be ostracized by employers.
“You can go back to your sentencing court and have those records sealed,” Turner said.
Turner said he works quite a bit with business organizations “and none of them came forward and objected to this legislation.”
Many states have similar laws, some which allow people to fully expunge crimes from their records.
Turner said he worked on the law for almost eight years, and hopes it will help the 18,000 convicted men and women released every year.
“The best thing we can do to keep them from coming back is to help them find a new job,” he said.