Ohio law provides for a two-step process for sealing records. First, the trial court must determine if a person is eligible; only then can it proceed with a determination of facts and decide whether to seal a record. The specific requirements for eligibility vary depending on whether a person is seeking to:
- Seal records related to arrests and cases ending in "not guilty" findings, dismissals, and "no bill" verdicts; or
- Seal records of convictions and bail forfeitures. See R.C. 2953.32 and 2953.52.
Call the criminal defense attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm to learn more about sealing a criminal record in Columbus, Ohio, or the surrounding areas in Franklin County, Ohio. Let us put our experience to work for you.
Is the Applicant to Seal an Eligible Offender?
When a person seeks to seal a record of a conviction, it must be determined if he or she is an "eligible offender" which means the court must determine whether:
- The criminal record reflects a permissible number of convictions;
- The conviction or convictions sought to be sealed are currently eligible to be sealed (based on the time elapsed since the time of final discharge and the nature of the conviction); and
- No criminal proceedings are currently pending against the applicant.
See R.C. 2953.31(A); 2953.32(A) and (C)(1)(a) and (b).
Ohio Revised Code 2953.31(A), as amended by 2012 Am.Sub.S.B. No. 337 ("S.B. No. 337") expanded the number of offenses subject to the sealing of records. When determining whether an applicant is an "eligible offender," the court must consider whether the person:
- Was convicted of an offense in Ohio or any other jurisdiction;
- Has no more than one felony conviction;
- Has no more than two misdemeanor convictions*; or
- Has no more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction in Ohio or any other jurisdiction.
*Effective September 19, 2014, the legislature removed the language "if the convictions are not of the same offense" when determining whether the offender had no more than two misdemeanor convictions. 2014 Am.Sub.S.B. No. 143.
Under R.C. 2953.32(C)(1)(a), when a trial court reviews an application to seal an adult criminal record, it must determine as a threshold question whether an applicant is an "eligible offender" as set forth in R.C. 2953.32(A) and 2953.31(A).
A court lacks jurisdiction to seal records when an applicant is not an "eligible offender." State v. Dominy, 10th Dist. No. 13AP-124, 2013-Ohio-3744, ¶ 6.
Which Prior Convictions Are Counted?
In most cases, a conviction for a minor misdemeanor, for a violation of any section in Chapter 4507., 4510., 4511., 4513., or 4549. of the state Revised Code, or for a violation of a municipal ordinance that is substantially similar to any section in those chapters cannot be applied as a conviction that counts against the offender under the sealed records statute.
Convictions that do not apply under the statute include:
- Violations of R.C. Chapters 4507 and 4510, which relate to administrative drivers license concerns;
- R.C. Chapter 4511, which relates to traffic controls and signs;
- R.C. Chapter 4513, which relates to vehicle equipment requirements and load limitations; and
- R.C. Chapter 4549, which generally relates to motor vehicle crimes.
The following charges shall be considered convictions that may be applied under the statute:
- A violation of sections 4511.19, 4511.251, 4549.02, 4549.021, 4549.03, 4549.042, or 4549.62;
- A violation of sections 4549.41 to 4549.46 of the Revised Code;
- A violation of sections 4510.11 or 4510.14 of the Revised Code that is based upon the offender's operation of a vehicle during a suspension imposed under sections 4511.191 or 4511.196 of the Revised Code;
- A violation of a substantially equivalent municipal ordinance;
- A felony violation of Title XLV of the Revised Code, or
- A violation of a substantially equivalent former law of this state or former municipal ordinance.
Offenses that may be applied as convictions under the statute are more serious traffic offenses, including:
- Violations of R.C. 4511.19, operation of a vehicle while intoxicated;
- R.C. 4511.251, street racing; and
- R.C. 4549.02, 4549.021 and 4549.03, stopping after an accident involving property damage.
Also, many serious crimes may be applied as convictions, including:
- R.C. 4549.042, involving the sale or possession of master car keys for illegal purposes;
- R.C. 4549.62, vehicle identification number fraud;
- R.C. 4549.41 through 4549.46, odometer fraud; and R.C. 4510.11 and 4510.14, driving under suspension.
List of Offenses Ineligible for Sealing
Ohio law provides that a conviction for certain types of offenses can never be sealed, even if it is the only conviction. Those offenses include:
- Any first or second degree felony;
- Any offense with a mandatory prison term;
- Any offense of violence including:
- 2919.22 Endangering children (*Division (B)(1), (2), (3), or (4))
- 2911.12 Burglary (*Division (A)(1), (2), or (3) of section)
- 2923.161 Improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation, in a school safety zone or with intent to cause harm or panic to persons in a school building or at a school function
- 2921.34 Escape
- 2921.04 Intimidation of attorney, victim or witness in criminal case
- 2921.03 Intimidation
- 2919.25 Domestic violence
- 2917.31 Inducing panic (*unless the offense is a first degree misdemeanor)
- 2917.03 Riot (*unless the offense is a first degree misdemeanor)
- 2917.02 Aggravated riot
- 2917.01 Inciting to violence (*unless the offense is a first degree misdemeanor)
- 2911.11 Aggravated burglary
- 2911.02 Robbery
- 2911.01 Aggravated robbery
- 2909.24 Terrorism
- 2909.03 Arson
- 2909.02 Aggravated arson
- 2907.12 Felonious sexual penetration (former)
- 2907.05 Gross sexual imposition
- 2907.03 Sexual battery
- 2907.02 Rape
- 2905.11 Extortion
- 2905.02 Abduction
- 2905.01 Kidnapping
- 2903.22 Menacing
- 2903.211 Menacing by stalking
- 2903.21 Aggravated menacing
- 2903.15 Permitting child abuse
- 2903.13 Assault (*unless the offense is a first degree misdemeanor)
- 2903.12 Aggravated assault
- 2903.11 Felonious assault
- 2903.04 Involuntary manslaughter
- 2903.03 Voluntary manslaughter
- 2903.02 Murder
- 2903.01 Aggravated murder
Additionally, any sexual offense not already listed is ineligible to be sealed, including:
- Unlawful sexual contact with a minor
- Illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance
- Sexual imposition
- Pandering obscenity involving a minor
- Pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor
Although a traffics offenses can never be sealed, they may not be applied as criminal convictions unless they are one of the traffic offenses listed below:
- Knowingly offering to sell a car on which the odometer was tampered with
- Tampering with an odometer
- Sale or possession of a master key designed to fit more than one vehicle
- Driving under suspension (after DUI or refusing to take breathalyzer/chemical test)
- Offenses with purpose to conceal or destroy identity of car or its parts
- Street racing
- Various types of hit-and-runs
- Leaving the scene of an accident
Facts Support the Required Findings to Seal Record
Once an applicant has been found to be an eligible offender, the statutes require a court to use its discretion to weigh a number of factors. The factors vary, depending on whether the person seeks to seal records of convictions and bail forfeitures or records relating to arrests and cases ending in dismissals, "not guilty" findings, or "no bill" verdicts. See R.C. 2953.32 and 2953.52.
When considering whether to seal records of a conviction for an eligible offender, a trial court must make statutorily required determinations of:
- Whether the applicant has been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court;
- Whether the reasons, if any, offered by the prosecutor in any written objection against sealing the records are persuasive; and
- Whether the interests of the applicant in having conviction records sealed outweigh the legitimate needs, if any, of the state to maintain those records.
See R.C. 2953.32(C)(1)(c) through (e).
If the trial court finds that a person is eligible and determines that the facts supporting the other required findings should be construed to favor sealing the records of conviction, then the trial court "shall order all official records of the case that pertain to the conviction or bail forfeiture sealed." R.C. 2953.32(C)(2).
Under S .B. No. 337, if the jurisdictional requirements and discretionary factors are met, a trial court is without authority to refuse to seal the records. Further, the sealing statutes are remedial and are, therefore, to be construed liberally to promote their purpose and assist the parties in obtaining justice. State ex rel. Gains v. Rossi, 86 Ohio St.3d 620, 622 (1999).
Additional Resources for Sealing an Ohio Record
Sealing Criminal Records in Ohio -- Find information from the Ohio Justice & Policy Center and Ohio Poverty Law Center about the process of sealing a criminal record in Ohio. Find a list of offenses that are ineligible for sealing of adult criminal convictions.
Franklin County - answers to common questions -- Visit the Franklin County Clerk of Courts website to find out more information about having a record sealed or expunged. The website discusses Ohio Revised Code statutes 2953.32 for sealing and 2953.36 for eligibility guidelines, and 2953.31 for first offender qualifications. Learn more about reentry participants and find templates, forms, and links to additional resources.
Sealing of Court Records in Franklin County -- Visit the website for the Franklin County Municipal Court to learn more about sealing a court record in the Criminal/Traffic Department in Franklin County, Ohio. Record checks are obtained through the Franklin County Sheriff's Department. An application for expunction can be filed in limited circumstances such as for certain firearm offenses and offenses committed by victims of human trafficking.
Finding an Attorney to Seal a Record in Franklin County, Ohio
If you want to seal a record in Columbus, Ohio, or the surrounding areas of Franklin County, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Joslyn Law Firm. We can help you determine if you are eligible and if so, we can help guide you through the process as painlessly and as quickly as possible.