Can I expunge my record?
This Avvo Legal Guide is brought to you by Jeffrey T. Stavroff & Co., LLC. In this Legal Guide, one will be able to determine whether they qualify to seal and expunge their record under Ohio law.
OverviewWhen an individual is charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, Ohio law may allow that individual to wipe the slate clean; in other words, sealing and expunging their record. Ohio law provides individuals with a method to purge their record from public view.
The act of applying to have a criminal charge or conviction is called an application to seal record. If the court grants the applicant's application to seal record, then the court orders law enforcement agencies and other governmental entities to wipe the record from the public eye; that court order is called expungement.
The DetailsSealing and expungement is a delicate process that requires attention to detail and deadlines.
The person filing the application to seal their record is known as an applicant.
The applicant must file their application to seal their record in the court that adjudicated their case.
The applicant must serve a copy of their application to seal with the prosecutor's office that was responsible for prosecuting the applicant when the case was active. This is necessary because the prosecutor has the right to respond and object to the application to seal.
The applicant must certify that: (1) they are an eligible offender; (2) there are no other criminal proceedings against the applicant at the time of filing the application to seal; (3) they have been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court; and (4) their interests in sealing and expunging the record are not outweighed by any legitimate governmental needs to maintain those records.
Am I an "eligible offender?"Sealing and expungement is not a right. Rather, it's an act of grace created by the State of Ohio for individuals who may have had a brush with the law, but have otherwise been upstanding citizens. Those individuals who qualify for sealing and expungement are known as eligible offenders.
An eligible offender is someone who has: (1) not more than 2 misdemeanor convictions; (2) not more than 1 felony conviction; or (3) not more than 1 misdemeanor conviction and 1 felony conviction.
Minor misdemeanor offenses -- non-jailable offenses that carry a maximum penalty of a $150.00 fine -- are not counted as convictions.
When can I file my application to seal?There are strict timelines and periods for sealing and expunging a record. The time limits depend on whether the application is to seal a (1) misdemeanor conviction, (2) felony conviction, or (3) dismissal or finding of not guilty.
For a misdemeanor conviction, the applicant must wait until 1 year after the applicant's final discharge.
For a felony conviction, the applicant must wait until 3 years after the applicant's final discharge.
For a charge that was dismissed or a case where the applicant was found not guilty, the applicant need not wait at all.
A "final discharge" is the point when the applicant has satisfied all conditions of the court's sentence. For example, if a person who was convicted of first degree misdemeanor assault was ordered by the court to serve 1 year of probation and pay a $250.00 fine, the 1 year clock for sealing and expunging the misdemeanor starts ticking as soon as the applicant (1) completes probation and (2) pays the $250.00 fine.
What if the court dismissed the charges against me? Does that process differ from being convicted?The laws for sealing and expungement differ for those who have their charges dismissed.
If the court dismisses the charges against an individual, that individual may apply to have the record sealed and expunged as soon as the judge signs the entry dismissing the case. The same applies for a case where the judge or jury finds a person not guilty.
Are all offenses eligible for sealing and expungement?Not all offenses are eligible for sealing and expungement. However, these non-eligible offenses refer to convictions, not dismissals or findings of not guilty. The offenses that are never eligible for sealing and expungement are listed below. In other words, a court is prohibited by law from sealing and expunging a conviction to any of these criminal offenses: (1) any conviction where the offender is subject to a mandatory prison term; (2) rape; (3) sexual battery; (4) unlawful sexual conduct with a minor; (5) gross sexual imposition; (6) sexual imposition; (7) pandering obscenity involving a minor; (8) pandering sexually oriented matters involving a minor; (9) illegal use of a minor in a nudity-oriented material or performance; (10) any traffic offense, and bail forfeitures relating to traffic offenses; (11) any offense of violence that is a felony or a misdemeanor of the first degree (but not riot, assault, inciting to violence, or inducing panic); (12) certain sex offenses involving a victim that was under 18 years old at the time of the offense, including voyeurism, public indecency, compelling prostitution, promoting prostitution, enticement or solicitation to patronize a prostitute, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, displaying matter harmful to juveniles, pandering obscenity, and deception to obtain matter harmful to juveniles; and (13) any offense that is a felony or a misdemeanor of the first degree involving a victim that was less than 16 years old (but not non-support of dependents).
What should I do next?Those who are curious about sealing and expunging a criminal record should contact attorney Jeffrey T. Stavroff at Jeffrey T. Stavroff & Co., LLC.