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Wiping The Slate Clean: Expunging Or Sealing Your Misdemeanor Or Felony Record In Ohio

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Turning points. Getting that job offer. Landing that promotion. Leasing your new apartment. Advancing in your military career. Obtaining your professional license. Why let a criminal record of a past criminal conviction stand in the way of your future success?

Ohio law gives eligible adult individuals the opportunity to have a criminal record “expunged,” or “sealed.” Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean a criminal conviction is erased completely from your record as if it never happened. Under current Ohio law, a criminal conviction is sealed. This means the record of the criminal conviction is filed separately from other people’s records where, generally, it cannot be seen by other people. In most cases, it won’t show up on a background check. And, once a record is sealed, the original conviction can be treated as if it never happened. In fact, on applications, you may honestly treat the sealed offense as if it doesn’t exist.

So, let’s take a look at sealing your misdemeanor or felony record.

Question 1: How do I know if I’m eligible to apply to seal my misdemeanor or felony conviction?

Under current law, an eligible applicant doesn’t need to be a first time offender.
Generally, an eligible applicant is anyone who

1) has been convicted of an offense in Ohio or any other jurisdiction,

    and

2) has either no more than one felony conviction, or
no more than two misdemeanor convictions, or
no more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction
in Ohio or any other jurisdiction

    and

3) whose offense does not fall within certain excluded offenses (for example, murder or rape, some other violent crimes, and most but not all traffic violations).

Question 2: How soon may I apply to seal my misdemeanor or felony conviction

An eligible applicant may apply to seal a felony conviction three years after discharge of the offender, and a misdemeanor conviction one year after discharge.

Question 3: Is there a fee to apply to seal my conviction?

Yes. The fee varies from county to county.

Question 4: Once I apply, is the sealing of my misdemeanor or felony conviction automatic?

No. The decision is at the court’s discretion. In almost all cases, there will be a hearing. The court will notify the prosecutor, who may file an objection to sealing the conviction. A probation officer may conduct an investigation. In making its decision, the court will consider various factors, including:

  • whether the applicant is eligible to apply to seal the conviction,
  • various circumstances of the conviction,
  • whether other criminal proceedings are pending against the applicant,
  • whether the applicant has been rehabilitated to the court’s satisfaction,
  • whether the prosecutor has filed an objection to sealing the conviction, and,
  • the interests of the applicant in sealing the conviction, versus the interests of the court in not sealing the conviction.

Question 5: What if I’ve been told in the past I’m not eligible to apply to seal my misdemeanor or felony conviction?

It may be beneficial to take another look. Ohio’s eligibility requirements have changed over the last several years. In the past, eligibility was limited to first-time offenders. That’s no longer the case. Also, excluded offenses have changed. For example, in the past, an individual convicted of failing to pay child support was not eligible. That’s no longer the case either if the individual is now current on his or her child support payments.

If you are considering applying to seal your criminal misdemeanor or felony record, let us help you remove this potential roadblock to your future success. Given the ins and outs of Ohio law, determining your eligibility can be complicated. For example, in certain circumstances, two or more convictions may be counted as one for purposes of determining eligibility. We’d welcome the opportunity to help you get started and to walk with you every step of the way.

This article is provided as a public service by Mallory Law Office, LLC. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice, legal counsel or legal representation. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the law and our reliance upon outside sources, we make no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein.