INDIANAPOLIS — People with old convictions were able to come away with an expunged record on Friday, giving a second chance to those who have paid their debt to society.
More than 40 people were able to get past criminal convictions and driving records expunged at the Marion County Criminal Justice Center.
Many of them had driving records that restricted them from driving.
“Looking at the numbers and where I was with my driving record, I thought it was impossible to get a license,” Bobby Watson said. “They just showed me a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Watson was able to get his driving record expunged, which is something he says is life changing for him and his family.
“I can’t wait to spread the word to everybody I know that needs help because I didn’t know where to turn,” Watson said. “So, it’s good to be a help to them. I hope more people get the feeling I got.”
The Marion County prosecutor's office worked with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic to help former offenders and convicts free of charge.
"We feel that this is part of our obligation to the community. We work for the community; the community doesn't work for us. This is one of those things where we can go to the community and say this is what we doing to try and help, " Ryan Mears, the Democratic Prosecutor for Marion County, said.
According to the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, the average cost for an attorney to help former offenders get their record expunged costs anywhere from $600 to $1,000. These free legal services can help people move on with their life.
"So many of these folks don't have jobs because they can't get one, because they need an expungement, so therefor, they don't have the ability to afford representation of an attorney," Julie Mennel, Senior Manage Expungement Help Desk at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, said.
The expungements are possible through Indiana’s second chance law.
A second chance is exactly what Brenda Smith, a participant in the clinic, needed. She says she made bad decisions after a tough divorce.
“I just kind of started drinking, gambling and things I’d never done in the past that cost me,” Smith said.
Smith ended up getting a DUI following her actions. She says this opportunity will allow her to move on with her life.
"I completed my probation. I am on interlock. I wanted to get off interlock and get my 10-year suspension of drivers’ privilege moved off. Now I have my criminal court expunged to go with it — I have a double blessing to go with it," Smith said.
The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic helps people with expungement cases free of charge year-round.
So far this year, they have helped over 3,000 people. For information about their services, click here.