Ohio Expungement Law


Expungement of Criminal Records – General – Ohio

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1.  What is an expungement?

In Ohio, expungement is the same as sealing a record. It is a court process that allows you to have any and all reference to a prior criminal conviction cleared and your court file sealed. It is as if you were never convicted of the crime.

2.  Do the records just disappear?

No. Once your record is expunged, nothing will show up when your record is checked. After expungement is finished, when asked about your past criminal record, you can honestly say that you have none. You can act as if the arrest and conviction never took place. However, even if your record is sealed:

1) law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and other agencies can look at your sealed record;
2) if you commit another crime, your sealed record can still be used against you in sentencing; and
3) your sealed record may be used to show character or credibility in court proceedings.

In the case of juvenile records expunged under ORC § 2151.358, records ordered to be sealed must be destroyed. There is an exception for records of expelled students maintained by school systems.

3.  What records may be expunged?

All official records pertaining to the case may be ordered sealed and, except that an index of sealed records may be maintained, all index references to the case deleted and, in the case of bail forfeitures, the court may dismiss the charges in the case. ORC § 2953.32.

For juvenile records expunged under ORC § 2151.358, the court shall order the appropriate persons and governmental agencies to delete all index references to the case; destroy or delete all court records of the case; destroy all copies of any pictures and fingerprints taken of the person pursuant to the expunged arrest; and destroy, erase, or delete any reference to the arrest that is maintained by the state or any political subdivision of the state, except a record of the arrest that is maintained for compiling statistical data and that does not contain any reference to the person. There is an exception for records of expelled students maintained by school systems.

4.  Who is eligible for an expungement?

You are eligible if you meet all of the following six conditions:

1) The conviction you are trying to expunge is NOT for one of the crimes or categories of crimes listed. (Convictions of the crimes listed CANNOT be sealed.) If you don’t know the crime for which you were convicted, contact the Clerk of the Courts. Remember your case was “criminal,” so be sure to go to the appropriate part of the Clerk’s office. Request a certified copy of the Judgment Order of Conviction(s). You will need to give the Clerk your case number. If you do not have the number, ask the Clerk to use the computer to look it up. For a small fee (one or two dollars), the Clerk will give you a copy. If the Judgment Order of Conviction mentions one of the crimes listed below, you cannot get your record sealed.

rape (ORC §2907.02)
sexual battery (ORC §2907.03)
corrupting a minor (ORC §2907.04)
gross sexual imposition (ORC §2907.05)
sexual imposition (ORC §2907.06)
obscenity involving a minor (ORC §2907.321)
pornography involving a minor (ORC §2907.322)
illegal use of a minor in pornography (ORC §2907.323)
all driver’s license violations (ORC Chapter 4507)
motor vehicle violations (ORC Chapter 4511)
bail forfeitures in traffic cases (Traffic Rule 2)
misdemeanors of first degree or felonies where victim is under the age of 18
felonies of the first or second degree
offenses of violence that are misdemeanors of first degree or felonies
(except the following offenses of violence can be expunged: convictions for riot (2917.03) and misdemeanor convictions for assault (2903.13), inciting to violence (2917.01), and inducing panic (2917.31))

2) You were NOT subject to a mandatory prison term for the conviction you seek to expunge (in other words, you were eligible for probation for that conviction). Even if you were actually sentenced to prison time, as long as you were eligible for probation.
3) This was your first and only conviction. You have never been convicted of the same crime or any other crime in this or any other state. UNLESS:

a) You were convicted of two or more crimes based upon the same action. In that case, all of these convictions will be considered your first and all can be erased from your record. For example, if you were convicted of shoplifting and resisting arrest as a result of the shoplifting, you can get both records sealed. OR
b) Your other convictions are for minor misdemeanors. Minor misdemeanors, including most traffic offenses, do not count as criminal convictions. These charges should not prevent you from having your record sealed.

4) You were convicted of a misdemeanor and more than one year has passed since your “final discharge,” or you were convicted of a felony and more than three years have passed since your “final discharge.” Final discharge means completion of jail time and/or probation.
5) You currently do not have any criminal or traffic proceedings pending against you.
6) You have not had any other case expunged.

Persons seeking to expunge juvenile records are eligible include any person who has been arrested and charged with being a delinquent child, unruly child,  or a juvenile traffic offender and who is found not guilty of the charges in the case or has the charges in the case dismissed, or if a person has been
adjudicated an unruly child, that person has attained eighteen years of age, and the person is not under the jurisdiction of the court in relation to a complaint alleging the person to be a delinquent child. ORC § 2151.358.

5.  How do I get records expunged?

Even if all of these six statements are true for you, the Judge can still refuse to seal your record. You must convince the Judge that you have been rehabilitated and that it is fair to seal your record.

Steps You Must Follow to Get Your Record Sealed

1) You need a copy of the final order of the conviction you wish to have sealed. Contact the Clerk of the Court in which you were convicted. Remember your case was “criminal,” so be sure to go to the appropriate part of the Clerk’s office. Request a certified copy of the Judgment Order of Conviction(s). You will need to give the Clerk your case number. If you do not have the number, ask the Clerk to use the computer to look it up. For a small fee (one or two dollars), the Clerk will give you a certified copy. Make sure it is certified (stamped with court seal).
2) Fill two forms, (a) “Application for Sealing of a Criminal Record Pursuant to ORC§2953.32″; and (b) “Judgment Entry for Sealing.”
3) To apply to have your record sealed, you will have to pay $50 to the Court. If you cannot pay the fee, fill out the “Poverty Affidavit” form. If you do not complete this form, be prepared to pay the $50 fee.
4) After the forms are filled out, attach the “Judgment Order ofConviction” to the “Application for Sealing of a Criminal Record”. Make three copies of everything. Take the original and the three copies of the “Application for Sealing of a Criminal Record” and the “Poverty Affidavit” or the $50 fee to the Clerk of Courts in the Court where you were convicted. (Do NOT file the “Judgment Entry”—bring this completed form with you to the hearing. If you are successful at the hearing, the Judge will sign it.) Tell the Clerk that you would like to file your documents. The Clerk will take all copies, stamp them, and give one copy back to you. KEEP THIS COPY! You will need it later.
5) The Court will set your case for a hearing. You will be notified by mail of the date set for the hearing. Mark the date on your calendar.
6) Before the hearing date, prepare what you will say to the Judge. You must convince the Judge that you are no longer someone who would commit a crime (you have been rehabilitated). Explain that you are sorry for what you did and explain how you have changed since that time.
7) On the day of your hearing, the Bailiff will call your name and ask you to present your case. Tell the Judge that you want to have your criminal record sealed, explain the charges you wish to erase from your record and that the proper time has passed. Explain to the Judge that you have been rehabilitated and why it is important to have your record sealed. The Prosecutor will be given the chance to object to your request.
8 ) The Judge must make a decision weighing your interests in having the records sealed against the government’s need to keep these records. The Judge may give a decision in Court or take time to think about the case and make a decision later. If no decision is made in Court, a copy of the decision will be mailed to you. Make sure the Court has your current address!

Persons seeking expungement of juvenile records under ORC § 2151.358 may file an application for expungement at any time after being found not guilty or the charges against the person are dismissed. The court will give notice to the prosecuting attorney of any hearing on the application. The court may also initiate the expungement proceedings on its own motion. If the order is granted and the person or their guardian don’t sign a waiver releasing their right to sue regarding the charges contained in the expunged records, the court will retain a sealed copy of all expunged records until the time to sue has expired.

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