- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A local judge must seal a former convict’s criminal record under a 2013 state law, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

In a 3-0 decision, the state court reversed a Lake County judge’s ruling that rejected a Valparaiso man’s request to have a charge of sexual misconduct with a minor sealed.

Jason Taylor met the requirements of a law enacted in 2013 that allows low-level felonies or misdemeanors to be expunged, Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in the nine-page order. The order also says that the language of the law clearly required Judge Salvador Vasquez to grant the expunction.

“We determine that the word “shall” … is mandatory language requiring expungement,” Vaidik wrote.

Taylor pleaded guilty under an agreement with prosecutors to a Class D felony charge of sexual misconduct with a minor in 2004 and received a suspended 18-month sentence. The charge against Taylor was reduced from a low-level felony to a misdemeanor in 2006 after he successfully completed probation.

The 2013 law allows old convictions to be sealed for people who have completed their sentences and not been convicted of other crimes for several years. The goal of the law that took effect last July is to improve nonviolent offenders’ chances of getting a job by shielding felony convictions from a background check done by potential employers.

Taylor sought to have his record expunged, but Vasquez denied his request after listening to the victim, who was 15 when the crime was committed. Vasquez said the law required him to consider the victim’s statement.

However, the appeals court said that lawmakers would have used the word “may” rather than “shall” if judges were given discretion to expunge low-level felony and misdemeanor records.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said it has not yet seen the ruling and had no immediate comment on it.

A message left with Taylor’s attorney was not immediately returned Thursday, and no telephone number for Taylor could be found.

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