In Ohio, what is normally referred to as expungement in other states is actually sealing a criminal record. Sealed records, as opposed to those that are expunged, are not completely erased, but are still available to those in law enforcement or the court systems. That being said, applying to have your record sealed is still worth doing because it prevents potential landlords, employers and others who are conducting background checks from seeing your criminal history.
Changes in Ohio Expungement Law
Until 2012, Ohio only allowed record sealing, which is still commonly referred to as expungement, in cases where the offender had just one conviction on his criminal record. Now you can obtain an expungement if you have two convictions on your record, as long as you do not have two felony convictions. It is important to note that convictions that count against expungement can be from any state, not just Ohio.
Under both the new law and the old law, two or more related convictions can be counted as one single conviction under this limit. For example, if you broke into a home and were charged with burglary and trespassing, this would only count as one charge since they occurred in the same incident. Additionally, up to three convictions stemming from the same criminal complaint or from the same official proceeding that occurred within a three-month period of one another can be counted as one conviction.
Certain minor misdemeanors, such as marijuana possession or disorderly conduct, and most traffic offenses are also excluded from the calculation of your total offenses for the purposes of expungement. You can also expunge any records that relate to crimes you were not convicted of.
Nonexpungeable Offenses in Ohio
That being said, there are some crimes that may not be expunged. Any first-degree or second-degree felonies; offenses of violence, including arson, domestic violence and kidnapping; or any offense with a mandatory prison term cannot be expunged. Also, no sex crimes can be expunged. Any offense where the victim was under 18 can also not be expunged from your record. All traffic offenses and those related to motor vehicles are ineligible for expungement.
How to Apply for Expungement
In order to apply for a misdemeanor expungement in Ohio, it must be at least one year since you completed serving your full sentence, which means the full discharge of all conditions of the sentence, including paying off fines, completing community service, and successfully fulfilling the terms of probation and parole. For a felony expungement, you must wait at least three years. You also cannot have any criminal charges pending against you.
The basic process for applying for an expungement is to file your petition and then submit it to the court, along with the filing fee. The court will then give you a date for your hearing. The court will also give notice of the hearing to the prosecutor, who can object to your petition. The judge can ask a probation officer to perform an investigation related to your application. Any objections made by the prosecutor or discoveries by the probation officer will be presented at your hearing, and the judge has the ultimate responsibility of deciding whether or not to approve your application based on the case, your record and any related evidence.
If you qualify to have your record sealed in Ohio, you should probably speak with a lawyer or seek help at a free legal clinic around the state. The process and paperwork can be highly complex and you can easily have your petition denied simply because you didn't properly apply.