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Indiana licensing law removes criminal record obstacle

A criminal record can have long-term consequences, such as blocking access to certain jobs. Although every citizen has the right to mount a strong criminal defense, 1.19 million people in Indiana or one in four adults in this state have an arrest or conviction record.

In 2015, Indiana released 16,074 people from prison. Obtaining family-sustaining jobs is important for returning these individuals to society after they served their sentences. The state General Assembly recently removed one obstacle to these citizens by restricting the impact of convictions for occupational licenses.

According to a 2016 study, the state had 160 mandatory employment and professional licensing bans that blocked all individuals with a criminal conviction from licensed and regulated careers. These included compulsory and lifetime bans from licensed occupations such as real estate brokers, engineers, plumbers and soil scientists, which can lead to a 10 to 15 percent increase in income.

Indiana's new law, HB 1245, was signed by the Governor late last month and restricts the use of these bans. It will take away blanket restrictions involving convictions, and any licensing restrictions will have to be directly related to the crime.

HB 1245 will also restrict consideration of a person's conviction to five years. It establishes a petition and appeal process allowing licensing applicants to check for restrictions before they apply for their licenses or invest in training. They will be able to appeal denials and require licensing officials to consider evidence such as rehabilitation or treatment, time elapsed since the commission of the crime and the seriousness of the offense. Officials cannot consider vague criteria such as moral turpitude or good moral character while ruling on licenses. Arrest for a criminal charge that did not lead to a conviction cannot be considered.

However, criminal convictions bans are still widespread and take place before applicants can present themselves in job interviews. The odds of a person with a conviction receiving a job increase by six when they are granted a face-to-face interview. However, those with a criminal record may have a hard time being considered for an interview in the first place.

The consequences of having a criminal record are not restricted to careers, but could also affect one's housing options, educational opportunities, and other rights afforded to those without a criminal record. It is important to preserve the rights of those charged with a crime, so they can have a chance to contest the allegations against them.

Source: WBIW, "New occupational licensing law opens pathways to jobs for people with criminal records," April 2, 2018

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