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Updated Laws on Sealing and Expungement in Ohio

Almost three years ago, we wrote about the Expungement laws in Ohio in our article entitled “New Expungement Law in Ohio: What You Should Know for 2019.” As you may suppose, what you should know for 2019 was different than what you should know for 2021.  This is due to several laws being passed which change the rules for expungement/sealing of criminal records in Ohio.  A significant law which currently effects changes on the process for expungement/sealing of records is Ohio House Bill 1, which is a combination of Ohio Senate Bill 10 and Ohio House Bill 431. These new laws generally increase the chances of being able to seal a criminal record in Ohio. As a reminder, sealing and expungement are used interchangeably in adult courts.

Defining Expungement or Sealing of Records in Ohio

Normally the term “sealing” is a bit more accurate, but we will still refer to the general process as expungement. As we explain in our previous article, a record is only truly expunged when it is destroyed so that no one can access it again.  This happens mostly in juvenile court after a record has been sealed.  In adult court, the process normally stops at sealing the record, which means the court’s record is erased from the public view and can only be accessed by court or government officials if the need arises. Often the sealing of an adult record is referred to as “expungement,” so that is what we will call it in this article. That being said, the rules we will discuss here do apply to adult court.  If you want to know about expungement laws for juvenile courts in Ohio, you can read our article “Expungement and Sealing of Juvenile Records in Ohio,” or, of course you can always contact our law offices for any legal questions that may arise.

How Long Do You Have to Wait to Get Your Record Expunged?

One of the main changes in the new expungement law in Ohio is the criteria used in the law to determine how long after a conviction you can apply for expungement.  While the old law based the wait time on how many felonies you have, the new law uses the degree of the crime to determine when you can file an application to expunge.  With some exceptions, if you wish to apply for an expungement in Ohio, you must wait:

  • 1 year after a misdemeanor, 4th degree felony, or 5th degree felony conviction
  • 3 years after a 3rd degree felony conviction
  • 7 years after a conviction of soliciting improper compensation
  • 1 year after a bail forfeiture

What Crimes Cannot be Expunged in Ohio?

As far exceptions to the rule, the law still generally disallows expungements of records of the following crimes:

  • Rape
  • Sexual Battery
  • Gross Sexual Imposition
  • Sexual Imposition
  • Pandering obscenity involving a minor or impaired person
  • Pandering sexual oriented matter involving a minor or an impaired person
  • Illegal use of minor or impaired person in nudity-oriented material or performance
  • Crimes involving a operation of a motor vehicle

Of course there are exceptions to the exceptions, that is why each case must be looked at closely to confirm whether expungement is possible.

Other Changes to Ohio Expungement Laws

The new law also eliminated the limit on misdemeanors AND felonies of the 4th or 5th degree for eligible offenders.  To be an eligible offender, you can have an unlimited number of offenses as long as they are misdemeanors in Ohio, felonies of the 4th or 5th degree in Ohio, an equivalent offense in another jurisdiction, none of the crimes are violent, and none of your felonies are of a sexual nature.  If you are not eligible for expungement of unlimited convictions, it MAY still be possible to expunge no more than four misdemeanor convictions, no more than two felony convictions, or a combination of exactly two felony convictions and no more than two misdemeanor convictions. Again, there are certain crimes that exclude you from eligibility even then.

To make things easier for those hoping to expunge/seal their record in Ohio, House Bill 1 allows for multiple crimes to be considered one conviction under certain circumstances. To be more specific, if multiple convictions come from the same act or are committed  at the same time, they can be counted as one conviction.  Two or three convictions can be counted as one conviction if they come from the same legal proceeding, even if the offenses were committed three months apart from each other. However, the Court may decide that your convictions be counted as separate convictions if they believe it is in the public interest based on the details of your individual case.

Conclusion

Overall, the new laws are very good news for people trying to expunge their records in Ohio.  Offenses that would have been ineligible for expungement before, may now be eligible for sealing.  There is more to the complex rules of expungement than we were able to put in this article, and we know that the rules we did discuss can be confusing.  Keep in mind that these rules are used to determine whether a conviction is eligible for expungement.  Eligibility is by no means a guarantee that a conviction will be expunged.  The prosecutor can still fight against an expungement application, and the court may ultimately deny an expungement if they feel expungement is not in the public interest.  Therefore, each individual seeking to expunge a criminal record must be prepared to defend the reasoning behind the expungement.  At Dearie, Fischer & Mathews, our lawyers have years of experience fighting for and obtaining expungements for our clients in Ohio courts.  If you want to apply for the expungement of a criminal record in Ohio, you can always contact Dearie, Fischer & Mathews for expert legal assistance.

 

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