How do I seal my Criminal Record in Ohio?
This guide will walk you through the steps necessary to seal your criminal record from public view. In Ohio adults can not expunge a record (completely destroy), but rather can seal their record from public view. Many courts try to make this process easy to do. The process is as follows:
(Step 1) Determine if you are an "eligible offender"Sealing your record is a two part process:
1. Determine if you are an eligible offender;
2. A Judge uses his/her discretion to decide whether to seal your record.
You cant get to step two if you are not an eligible offender.
"Eligible offender" has a specific meaning under Ohio Law and if you are not an "eligible offender" it doesn't matter if the Judge wants to seal your record--they can not follow the law and do so. So who is an eligible offender?
You can only have 2 charges total (this can get more complicated but for now assume it is exactly what it sounds like). The focus of this is that if you have lots of convictions the legislature doesn't care what a Judge thinks....you're not eligible.
If you have an "old charge" from 10 years ago and a "new charge" from 1 year ago you have two total charges and you are eligible. However, misdemeanors and felonies are not treated equally. You are eligible to file:
1. One misdemeanor
2. One felony
3. Two misdemeanors
4. One misdemeanor and one felony
If you have three charges total or two felonies none of the charges may be sealed.
Some charges can not be sealed. The following charges do not qualify to be sealed under Ohio law:
1. Any charge with mandatory Prison time (not mandatory jail...mandatory prison)
2. Many sex offenses (Rape, Sexual Battery, Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a minor, GSI, Sexual Imposition, Pandering Sexually oriented material involving a minor, and Illegal use of a minor in Nudity Oriented material)
3. Offenses of violence that are First Degree Misdemeanors or Felonies (except misdemeanor assault, inciting to violence, and riot--those remain eligible) despite being misdemeanors of the first degree.
4. Importuning (if committed after October 10, 2007)
5. Offenses where the subject was under 18 the following charges can not be sealed (Voyeurism, Public Indecency, Compelling/Promoting/Enticing Prostitution, Displaying/Disseminating matter harmful to minors, and Pandering Obscenity)
6. Offenses where the subject was under 16 years old that are first degree misdemeanors or felonies (except criminal nonsupport)
7. Felonies of the First or Second degree
(Step 2) A Judge weighs your interest in sealing vs. the government's interest in maintaining recordIf you are an "eligible offender" under "Step 1" then a Judge will decide "Step 2". Although a Judge can schedule a hearing to determine whether or not to seal your record if you are not an "eligible offender" this is when a Judge breaks the news to you that they can not decide since you did not qualify.
At the hearing to decide whether to seal your record a Judge must weigh the following factors:
1. Are there any pending cases against you. If so, you are not eligible even if you only have one or two convictions.
2. Your cases must have been closed for the statutory period (closed means all fees are paid, probation/community control has ended, and your sentence has been fully satisfied). By law misdemeanors must be closed for 1 year before you are eligible to file to seal them and felonies must be closed for 3 years.
3. Consider the objections filed by a prosecuting attorney. These objections are typically done in writing however Judges will generally allow a prosecutor to speak at a hearing for a motion to seal as well.
4. Consider whether or not the offender has been "rehabilitated" to the satisfaction of the Court.
5. Finally, if in the judgement of the Court (Judge) the applicant's interest in having a record sealed outweighs the legitimate interests of the government in maintaining the record then a court shall order the sealing of all records pertaining to the conviction. This includes all record of arrest, court hearings and conviction.
Number 5 above is where a Judge would want to hear about how the conviction affects you. Your interest in sealing your record may be difficulty in obtaining/advancing in your employment, difficulty in obtaining housing, and the stigma attached to charges. During a hearing you should be prepared to convey these concerns to a Judge. This is done most effectively with specific examples. For instance saying "I cant get a job" is fine. However, a specific example of advancing through the first round of interviews and then being told by an employer that you did not qualify based on your conviction is a more effective way to demonstrate your "interest" in sealing your record.
In the end the Judge simply needs to find your interest to be stronger that the Government's interest in maintaining the record. Making sure you convey how your record has detrimentally impacted your life is the final step in a process that will always stretch for weeks and can certainly take months.
A skilled attorney can help you maneuver though determining your eligibility, filing the paperwork, and presenting your case at a hearing but no Judge will require you to hire an attorney.