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The legal process to remove criminal convictions from your record is called “Sealing of Record of Conviction.” Many individuals think this process is also commonly referred to in Ohio as Expungement, however the correct term in Ohio is “Sealing of Record”. Sealing an Ohio Record is not just limited to sealing convictions. Criminal records of a dismissed charge, no-bill charge, acquittal of charge, bail forfeitures, and juvenile charges can be sealed in Ohio.
Eligible offenders convicted of certain types of crimes can ask the court to seal their convictions. There are many benefits to having a criminal record sealed in Ohio. If the court seals a conviction, that conviction is no longer in the public record. Courts seal records so that eligible offenders can move on with their lives without the stigma of a criminal conviction.
In this day and age, background checks are routine. When applying for some jobs, apartments, student loans, licenses, business loans, etc., those reviewing your application will likely see your past criminal record. A sealing of your record allows you to have any and all public references to your prior criminal conviction cleared and your court file sealed. Once your record has been sealed, Ohio Sealing Statute states that the old criminal record should be treated as if it never occurred. For many people, the most valuable benefit of Sealing a Record is being able to reply “no” when asked by a potential employer if you have ever been convicted of a crime.
The Ohio law that controls Sealing of Record /Expungement is Section 2953 of the Ohio Revised Code. The process of Sealing of a Criminal Record in Ohio, the O.R.C. 2953.31 provides that an “Eligible Offender” may apply to the sentencing Ohio court for the sealing of their criminal record. An eligible offender is someone who has no more than five felony convictions. An eligible offender may have unlimited misdemeanor convictions. When a court determines if you are eligible for sealing, it will not consider minor misdemeanors and most convictions for possession of marijuana (which is generally a minor misdemeanor). The court will also not count most minor traffic offenses, but it will consider convictions for OVIs and DUIs.
Most misdemeanors, fourth and fifth-degree felonies, and in some instances a third-degree felony, can be sealed unless a criminal statute specifically states that a particular crime is not eligible.
Though the court will not consider minor traffic offenses when determining if you are an eligible offender, traffic offenses, including OVIs/DUIs, cannot be sealed. Additionally, you cannot seal first and second-degree felonies, and any felony with a mandatory prison sentence. Finally, almost all crimes of violence, sex crimes and offenses where the victim was under 16 years old cannot be sealed. However, first-degree misdemeanor assault and domestic violence menacing (a fourth-degree misdemeanor) may be sealed in some circumstances.
There are waiting periods for an expungement which differ depending on if the record is for a felony, misdemeanor, dismissed charge, or acquittal. Not all crimes can be sealed from your record. Ohio law and case law establish which offenses are eligible for expungement.
Recently, there have been some major changes to Ohio Record Sealing Law. Ohio Sealing of Record laws were expanded under Senate Bill 337. The new Ohio Sealing Statutes expand who can seal their records and what charges can be sealed. As a result, more people are eligible for sealing of record, and more charges can be sealed than under the previous Sealing of Record Statute. Furthermore, if a person had been denied under the old law as ineligible, they may now be eligible for sealing of their record under Ohio’s new Sealing Statute.
If you want to be assured of success in sealing your criminal record, it is important that you speak with an experienced attorney that knows the laws for Sealing of Records so they can accurately advise and guide you through the process. Sealing a record of a criminal conviction is an excellent way to put the past behind you and close a chapter on a past mistake. Sealing of Record provides a fresh start, piece of mind and the opportunity to pursue career opportunities that may not have been available with a criminal record.
You may apply for sealing if one year has passed since your sentence ended for a misdemeanor. If you have a felony or felonies, you have to wait approximately three years after your felony sentence ends. In addition, the waiting period generally does not begin until you pay any restitution you might owe, as well as fines.
Your request for sealing should be filed in the court where you were sentenced. Once you apply, the court will set a hearing date. The probation department will usually investigate your case and prepare a report for the court to use to determine whether you are an eligible offender. The prosecutor may challenge the sealing request by filing an objection before the hearing date.
The court will determine if you have been rehabilitated and it will weigh your interest in clearing your name against the government’s need to allow public access to your records. The court will review the probation report to see how you have behaved since the conviction. The decision whether to seal your record is up to the judge.
It is important to know that the court will not automatically seal your case if it was dismissed, you were found not guilty, or if the grand jury issued a “no bill” and refused to indict you. You must follow the procedure outlined in this article to get records sealed. There is no waiting period to file for sealing a dismissal or a not guilty verdict. A person may apply to have a “no bill” sealed two years after it is filed.
In some situations, the law allows certain employers and state agencies to access your sealed record. Examples include if you want to care for an older adult, work for a children’s services agency, work for a bank or want to work as a police or corrections officer. If you apply for a state vocational license, the licensing agency may also be able to see your sealed record. In addition, the police may be able to access your sealed record as part of a criminal case or investigation or if you are seeking a concealed carry permit.
People might also be able to find out about your conviction online. There are many private background check companies, as well as news articles, that may have information about your criminal case. Those organizations will not receive notice that your conviction has been sealed. Once the court seals your record, you should try to notify any organization that has a record of your conviction. It is important to remember that potential employers may use these companies to perform pre-employment background checks, and your conviction could still appear on a background check.
It can be complicated to determine if you are eligible to have your criminal record sealed. It requires a review of all of your convictions, even those in other states, and the appropriate law. An attorney can look at your criminal record to help you decide if you are eligible to have your record sealed. So give our office a call at (740) 363-3900 to see if you are eligible and to start the process of sealing your record today!
Brian Glen Jones graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a Bachelors Degree in Politics and Government. He then went on to earn his Juris Doctorate degree from the University Of Akron School Of Law. Brian has been a lifelong resident of Ohio. Brian is licensed to practice law in the state of Ohio and before the United States District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Ohio.
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