Can I Get My Record Expunged Or Sealed In Ohio?
If you are like most people, you care about your reputation and do not want your criminal record causing you to be held back from landing a job, getting into school, obtaining a professional license, taking out a loan or even renting an apartment. If you have a criminal record, you probably want to get it expunged. Fortunately, Ohio offers a way for you to all but erase certain offenses so that you can get a fresh start and put the past behind you. The way to do this in Ohio is by sealing your record. Here’s what this means. Expungement removes evidence of your criminal record both in the physical and the electronic form. Notably, in Ohio, your record cannot currently be expunged. But fear not! Ohio allows you to request the sealing of certain records. If you get your records sealed, they cannot be accessed without a court order. It will be as if the legal proceedings and the criminal conviction never even happened. So, expunging and sealing a record are not the same thing but they can accomplish the same purpose. Generally, here’s how you know if you qualify for your record to be sealed.
- You are an “eligible offender” which typically means that you were convicted of a non-violent, non-sex offense which is a misdemeanor or a third, fourth or fifth degree felony;
- You are not currently involved in a criminal matter;
- Your conviction did not require a mandatory prison term;
- You do not have six or more felonies;
- Your case was fully discharged; and
- You have satisfied the waiting period
- The Waiting Period for Convictions
- Offenses Not Eligible for Sealing
- How Do I Get My Record Sealed?
- Why Get My Record Sealed?
The Waiting Period For Convictions
In Ohio, if you were convicted of an offense, you will have to wait anywhere from one to five years from when your case was fully discharged before you can apply to have your record sealed. When your case is fully discharged, you have satisfied all requirements of your sentencing, including completion of a jail or prison sentence, completion of probation, parole or community service, and payment of court costs, fines or restitution. If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor, you will have to wait one year from final discharge. However, if you were arrested for a misdemeanor and you forfeited bail, you will have to wait a year from the date of the bail forfeiture. If you were convicted of just one felony, you will have to wait three years from final discharge before your record can be sealed. Beginning In 2018, Ohio began allowing the sealing of multiple convictions. Multiple felonies of the fourth or fifth degree can be sealed. For two felonies, the waiting period is four years, and for three-to-five felonies, it is five years.
Waiting Period For Non Convictions
If your matter was selected for a grand jury who did not indict you, then you have to wait two years following a “no-bill” ruling before applying for record sealing. A no bill is a report by the foreman or deputy foreman that an indictment is not found by the grand jury against a person who has been held to answer before the grand jury of the commission of an offense. Perhaps you were charged but the case against you was dismissed or you were otherwise found not guilty (known as being acquitted). Unfortunately, there is still a public record In this situation. However, you can file an application for sealing your record upon dismissal or acquittal.
In Ohio, minors do not get convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. Instead, minors can be adjudicated as delinquent or juvenile traffic offenders. A delinquent child is basically someone who commits a violation of the law or an order of the court. A juvenile traffic offender is someone who, as the name suggests, violates traffic laws, rules and ordinances. It is possible for these types of records to be sealed.
It is possible that multiple convictions may all come together as one conviction which can be sealed. The general rule is that when two or more convictions result from or are connected with the same act or result from the actions committed at the same time, they count as one conviction. Also, when two or three convictions result from the same indictment, information, complaint, guilty plea, or official proceeding and are the result of related criminal acts committed within a 90-day period, they are generally counted as one conviction. However, it is possible that you are convicted for multiple crimes with only some of those offenses eligible to be sealed. Specifically, if you were charged with two or more offenses from the same act, you cannot apply for sealing of your record for any of those charges which has a different final disposition than the other charges. In that situation, you would have to wait until you can apply to the court and have all of the records sealed.
Offenses Not Eligible For Record Sealing
In Ohio, there are many types of convictions which cannot be sealed. Generally, this includes any first or second degree felony, a sexual offense, or any felony or first-degree misdemeanor offense involving violence or where the victim was a minor. Let’s take a closer look at these offenses.
Violent Offenses Generally Cannot Be Expunged Or Sealed
In Ohio, violent offenses include but are not limited to: murder, arson, involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault, permitting child abuse, aggravated menacing, menacing by stalking, kidnapping, extortion, terrorism, robbery, burglary, inciting to violence, riot, inducing panic, domestic violence, intimidation, improperly discharging firearm, and endangering children where abuse, torture, excessive or unwarranted physical discipline is alleged. If you committed an offense of violence that constitutes a felony in Ohio, you generally cannot get your record sealed. Also, if you were convicted of an offense of violence that constitutes a first degree misdemeanor, then you typically cannot get your record sealed. Currently, the only exceptions to this are assault, inciting to violence, inducing panic and domestic violence.
No Expungement Or Sealing For Sex Offenses Or Offenses Involving Minors
You cannot seal sex-based offenses or offenses involving minors. Sex-based offenses include rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition and trafficking. For offenses involving minors as victims, this includes pandering obscenity, voyeurism, public indecency, promoting or procuring for prostitution, disseminating harmful material and the illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
Traffic Offenses Cannot Be Expunged Or Sealed
In Ohio, you cannot seal your criminal record for traffic offenses. This includes drivers’ license violations, motor vehicle violations and motor vehicle offenses such as speeding or operating a vehicle under the influence (known as OVI, DUI or DWI).
Situations Where Sealed Records Become Unsealed
If you are charged with another offense, your sealed record may be discoverable in Ohio and possibly be used against you in sentencing. It is accessible by anyone involved in the adjudication of the criminal proceedings. Also, your record could become accessible by law enforcement agencies and the bureau of criminal identification and investigation for specific limited purposes such as when you seek a career in law enforcement.
How Do I Get My Record Sealed?
First of all, § 2953.32 of the Ohio Revised Code tells you the specific process for sealing a record in the State of Ohio. Essentially, the process involves the filing of an application for sealing of records along with payment of a $50 fee, followed by a review of that application by the court and prosecutor to determine eligibility and objections, and if the application is approved, the court’s order for the records to be sealed. Let’s take a closer look at these steps.
Filing An Application For Sealing Of A Criminal Record
If you are an eligible offender, then you will want to first obtain your court files which includes any orders of convictions, dismissals or not guilty findings. It is possible that you can obtain your record in person or online by going to the website of the Clerk of Courts located where you were convicted. Next, you will file an application with the court where you were convicted. The procedures and policies that you have to follow are determined by each court. The filing fee for record sealing is $50; however, there is no fee if all of the charges in the case have been dismissed, acquitted, no billed, nolled, ignored or otherwise eliminated. It is also possible to apply to have the fee waived if you cannot afford it. Once the court receives the application and fee, it will review the application to ensure that it is complete and will then conduct a record check. At this time, the application is sent to the prosecutor. In Franklin County, you can obtain your records by phone at (614)-645-8186, in person at the Clerk’s office 375 S. High Street 2nd Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215, or online. If you have non-violent misdemeanor convictions on your record, you can get those records sealed by filing a Sealing of Records Application with the Franklin County Municipal Court. In addition, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor of the first, second, third or fourth degree, then you also have to complete a Sealing of Records Probation Worksheet. If you have been convicted of a non-violent, non-sex felony which is not a first or second degree offense, you can generally get those records sealed by filing an Application for Order Sealing Record of Conviction or Bail Forfeiture.
Court and Prosecutor Reviews Application
If the prosecutor agrees that you are eligible for record sealing, the prosecutor and judge will typically sign off on the sealing. The record is then handed to the Clerk of Courts and sealed. The legal proceedings will be considered not to have happened, and all index references to the case will be deleted. Notably, before this happens, the court is going to make a number of determinations. First of all, the court will determine if you are an eligible offender, whether forfeiture of bail was agreed to, whether or not you were convicted, or whether a “no bill” was reported. Secondly, the court will determine if there are any criminal proceedings against you such as if you have just been charged with another offense or are subject to a pending speeding ticket, warrant for your arrest, or are on probation for another matter. You will not be eligible if these charges were pending at the time that you submitted your application until the date of your hearing. Thirdly, the court will determine if you have been sufficiently rehabilitated – which typically means that you have taken steps to correct your past misconduct. For example, if you were convicted for OVI, then you might want to show that you have sobered up, sought counseling or do not have a problem with alcohol. If you were convicted of a criminal offense, you might want to show that you are not likely going to commit that offense again. Evidence of rehabilitation goes a long way.
Court Hearing On Whether To Seal The Record
If an objection is filed by the prosecutor, then the court schedules a date for a hearing to determine if your conviction should be sealed. The prosecutor would have to explain why the court should deny your application. In most cases, you have to attend this hearing; however, an attorney may be able to attend the hearing on your behalf. At the hearing, you could mention the steps that you have taken to rehabilitate yourself and to demonstrate how you are a productive member of society. You could also outline the problems that your record presents in the event that you are subject to a criminal background check. After the court reviews your application and has heard what you and the prosecutor have to say about sealing your criminal record, the judge will be faced with taking your interests into consideration while also considering the government’s interest in keeping the public informed about your record. The judge will ultimately determine if your record will be sealed. If the judge determines that the public interest in knowing about your record outweighs your interest in sealing it, or if there is some other reason which makes you ineligible, then your application may be denied. Sometimes applications are denied by people who try to accomplish record sealing without an attorney and who make mistakes in their application and in arguing their case. Since the judge has a lot of control in deciding these things, it makes sense for an attorney to represent you in this proceeding instead of going it alone.
Why Get My Criminal Record Sealed?
When your record is sealed, the court issues an order restoring the rights which have not already been restored to you through the completion of your sentence or final release on parole. In fact, if any officer or employee of the state reveals confidential information that has been sealed for any purpose, they are subject to criminal sanctions.
Protects Your Privacy And Reputation
The sealing of a criminal record prevents it from being available to the public. No longer will you have to disclose it, let alone have to explain the circumstances that led you to commit your past mistakes. This provides a significant amount of privacy and protection of your reputation.
Eliminates Barriers To Employment
Suppose that you are applying for a job. In your job application, you will likely be asked if you have ever been convicted of an offense. If your record is sealed, you cannot be questioned by your employer as to the sealed conviction, so you can safely answer “no” to questions that prompt you to disclose it. Besides, you might face competition from a number of people applying for the job. In that situation, you could lose out to someone without a criminal record, all else equal. Why let that happen?
Prevents Denial of Loans And Grants
Perhaps you are attempting to obtain a loan for college. You might face problems with your criminal record in getting approved. Why place yourself at risk of getting denied? Without having the funds to privately pay for school, a loan may be the only option to cover tuition.
Prevents Roadblocks With Professional Licenses
Finally, with most professions, you must be licensed or certified. Obtaining a license generally necessitates disclosure of a criminal record. You do not want to go through all of the effort to work in a dream profession only to find that your criminal record hampers or even prohibits you from obtaining a license.
Hiring An Expungement Or Record Sealing Attorney
Sealing a record in Ohio could be time-consuming and complex. It entails court appearances and convincing a judge. For this reason, it makes sense to hire an experienced Ohio record sealing attorney. Specifically, among other things, an Ohio record sealing attorney can:
- consult with you regarding your record to help determine if it can be sealed;
- prepare your criminal records and documentation and file an application for your record to be sealed; and
- represent you at your hearing to help convince the judge that you have been rehabilitated and that your record ought to be sealed.
Joslyn Law Firm has extensive expertise helping clients seal their criminal records so that they can effectively erase their past mistakes and move on with their lives. Contact Joslyn Law Firm at (614) 444-1900 for a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys regarding the sealing of your record in Franklin County and surrounding counties, including Pickaway County, Madison County, Delaware County, Licking County and Fairfield County in Ohio.