Expungement and Record Sealing

Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been convicted, charged, or even arrested for a criminal offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, your record is available to the public. This means that college admission offices, landlords and potential employers can see if you have a criminal record. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC can assist you in removing your criminal record from public view through the process known as expungement and record sealing.

What is Record Sealing in Ohio?

Sealing a criminal record, also called expungement, is a legal process whereby a person has any and all criminal records sealed by the court. Thus, it would not appear on a background check conducted by a potential employer, landlord, etc. Convictions for both misdemeanors and felonies can be sealed and expunged. However, record sealing is not limited solely to convictions. Other types of criminal records, such as dismissed charges, acquittal of charge, bail forfeitures and juvenile charges are all subject to expungement. The statutes for expungement and record sealing under Ohio law are found in Title 2953 of the Ohio Revised Code, with sections 2953.31, 2953.32, 2953.52 being among the key provisions.

Changes Under Ohio Law for Expungement and Record Sealing

Under the previous expungement law in Ohio, only first-time offenders were eligible to have their records sealed. “First offenders” were defined as a person with only one previous conviction on their record. Thus, if you had been convicted of a crime at two different times, you most likely were not eligible.

Under the new expungement and record sealing law, people with multiple convictions can have their past offenses expunged so long as they are an “eligible offender.” This allows more people to have their records sealed and expunged, and permits previously ineligible individuals to now be eligible under the new Ohio record sealing and expungement statutes. An “eligible offender” is one who has “not more than one felony conviction, not more than two misdemeanor convictions if the convictions are not of the same offense, or not more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction.” As a result of the change in the expungement and record sealing law, individuals with the following combinations of convictions qualify for expungement and record sealing:

  1. One felony conviction;
  2. One misdemeanor conviction;
  3. One felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction even if they are not related to the same case; or
  4. Two misdemeanor convictions even if they are not related to the same case.

Examples may help clarify. If you were convicted of fifth degree felony receiving stolen property in 2005, expungement and record sealing is now available to you. If you were convicted of fourth degree misdemeanor drug paraphernalia in 2005 and then first degree receiving stolen property in 2007, both charges are now eligible for expungement and record sealing. Finally, if you were convicted of fifth degree felony receiving stolen property in 2005 and fourth degree misdemeanor drug paraphernalia in 2007, both charges are now eligible for expungement and record sealing.

It is important to understand, however, that there are many exceptions to the rules regarding expungement and record sealing, including what charges cannot be expunged and sealed. These include:

  • First and second degree felonies
  • Convictions of 3 or more criminal offenses in separate cases
  • Convictions of 2 or more felony offenses out of separate cases
  • Convictions for felony sex offenses
  • Felony or first degree misdemeanor domestic violence convictions (fourth degree misdemeanor domestic violence convictions can be expunged)
  • DUI / OVI
  • Most violent crimes (except misdemeanor assault)
  • Felonies committed against minors and first degree misdemeanors committed against minors
  • Convictions that carry a mandatory prison sentence
  • Pending criminal or traffic charges
  • Convictions under ORC 4507 (Driver’s License Law), ORC 4510 (Driving Under Suspension, Cancellation and Revocation), ORC 4511 (Traffic Laws – Operation of a Motor Vehicle), ORC 4549 (Motor Vehicle Crimes), violations of similar municipal ordinances, and bail forfeitures in traffic cases.

It is important to remember, however, that the time limits for expungement and record sealing have remained unchanged. Thus, you will become eligible for misdemeanor expungement and record sealing 1 year after the case is finished. For felony conviction, the time limit is 3 years. The case is finished when all fines, costs and restitution are paid, or you have been discharged from probation.

Process for Expungement and Record Sealing In Ohio

The process for expungement and record sealing in Ohio is controlled by statute. In order to apply for expungement and record sealing, the person must be an “eligible offender,” defined under ORC 2953.31. Attorney David Johnson will file a motion with the sentencing court, and the probation department will investigate the applicant to make sure the offense is permitted to be expunged and sealed and that the applicant meets the qualifications for expungement and record sealing.

The prosecutor is involved in any application for expungement or record sealing. If the prosecutor believes there is a problem with the application, the prosecutor may file a motion with the court or object on the day of the hearing. This is where having an attorney is critically important. Attorney Johnson will file additional memorandums in support of the applicant’s motion for expungement and record sealing.

At the hearing, the judge has the sole discretion on whether to grant or deny the application for expungement and record sealing. Several factors are considered by the judge when issuing a ruling, including the interests of the person in having their record expunged and sealed, and the interests of the state of Ohio and maintaining the record. For example, it is common for certain offenses, such as 4th degree misdemeanor domestic violence, to be challenged by the prosecutor at the expungement and record sealing hearing because it is an enhanceable offense (i.e., a later domestic violence charge is enhanced based on the previous conviction).

The judge will typically decide during the hearing whether to grant the application for expungement and record sealing. If granted, the judge will sign an order of Expungement and Sealing of Record. The court will send this information to all governmental agencies who maintain the records requiring them to seal the documents from the public.

Why Have Your Record Expunged and Sealed?

Background checks are ubiquitous, with most employers, government agencies, landlords, college admission offices, etc. utilizing them. A criminal record will appear on a background check, denying you opportunities to find employment, obtain certain governmental benefits, living where you wish to, and gaining admission to college. Sealing your criminal record, even if only for a dismissed charge, will help you in applying for student loans, receiving public benefits, child custody hearings, or obtaining a professional license.

Do I Need an Attorney to Expunge and Seal My Record?

Yes. An application for expungement and record sealing requires the drafting of a legal motion. This motion has to comply with certain court rules, it must present evidence to the court that you are rehabilitated, and it must persuade the court that you are deserving of an expungement and record sealing. If the prosecutor objects to the motion, additional memorandums must be filed to counter the prosecutor’s arguments. If the correct procedures are not followed, and sufficient proof is not presented, your application will be denied. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

While there is a wealth of information online related to expungement and record sealing (this website included), many websites state that you can simply fill out the forms yourself. These websites, however, are often located outside Ohio and do not have the necessary information on Ohio expungement and record sealing, they neglect to mention that your application will be set for a court hearing, and that certain evidence must be presented at the hearing before the court will grant your application. Having your expungement and record sealing done right, as opposed to cheaply, is a must.

Where Do I Apply for an Expungement and Record Sealing?

Ohio statutes require that any application for expungement and record sealing be directed to the sentencing court where you were convicted. If your case was for a misdemeanor, you would apply to the Municipal Court where you were sentenced. If your case was a felony, you would apply to the Common Pleas Court where you were sentenced. For example, if you were sentenced for first degree misdemeanor receiving stolen property in Delaware, Ohio, you would apply to the Delaware Municipal Court. If you were sentenced for fifth degree felony receiving stolen property in Columbus, Ohio, you would apply to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Do I Have to Appear in Court to Have My Record Expunged and Sealed?

Yes. After an application for expungement and record sealing has been filed, ORC 2953.32 and 2953.52 require that a hearing be held. However, since many people are unavailable to appear for the court hearing (e.g., employment), Attorney David Johnson can file a motion with the court waiving your appearance. This will result in one of two things occurring: (1) The court may decide your application based solely on the parties’ briefs and motions, or (2) the court may hold the hearing, but only require the attorneys to be present.

Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Expungement and Record Sealing Attorney

If you have previous criminal offenses that you wish to have expunged and sealed in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, call Johnson Legal, LLC at (614) 987-0192 and speak with Attorney David Johnson. As an experienced Columbus and Delaware, Ohio criminal defense attorney, Attorney Johnson will discuss with you your previous criminal convictions, whether you meet the requirements of an “eligible offender,” and assist you with the process of expungement and record sealing.