In Ohio, expungement is considered a legal process in court which allows you to have all public records of a previous criminal conviction cleared and your court file sealed. In other words, an expungement makes it appear like the criminal offense or record never occurred.
There are a wide variety of benefits to having your criminal record expunged. Whether you are seeking employment, professional licensing, citizenship, or even a place to live, those reviewing your application may want to know if you have ever been convicted of a crime. If you have been convicted of a criminal offense in your record, it is highly unlikely that you will be given the job, promotion, a professional license, considered for citizenship, or even rent an apartment.
The following are the six conditions which need to be met in order for you to be eligible for expungement in Ohio:
- You must not be convicted of one of the following crimes: First-degree felonies, second-degree felonies, first-degree misdemeanors or felonies where the victim is under the age of 18, rape, sexual battery, child pornography, obscenity involving a minor, corrupting a minor, sexual imposition, gross sexual imposition, motor vehicle violations, all driver’s license violations, bail forfeitures in traffic cases, violent offenses that are misdemeanors of the first degree or felonies.
- You were not required to serve a mandatory prison term for the conviction.
- This conviction is your first and only conviction in Ohio or in any other jurisdiction. However, there are two exceptions to this. First, if two or more convictions resulted from the same criminal act or resulted from crimes committed at the same time, the convictions will be counted as one. Additionally, when two or three convictions are from the same complaint/indictment, or from the same guilty plea, and result from related criminal acts committed within three months of each other, the convictions will be counted as one. Second, if your other convictions were for minor misdemeanors, such as traffic offenses.
- If you wish to expunge a misdemeanor conviction, at least one year must have passed since its final discharge. If you wish to expunge a felony conviction, you must wait until three years since its final discharge has passed.
- You have no other criminal or traffic hearings pending in court at the time of the expungement application.
- You can only have one conviction expunged from your criminal record.
Once you determine your eligibility for expungement, you must obtain a copy of the final order of the conviction you wish to have sealed. Go to the Clerk of Court's criminal division and request a certified copy of the “Judgment Order of Conviction,” which contains your case number.
You must also fill out two forms: the Application for Sealing of a Criminal Record Pursuant to ORC 2953.32 and the Judgment Entry for Sealing. Once completed, attach your Judgment Order of Conviction to the application, make at least three copies of the entire packet, and bring those three copies to the Clerk of the Court for the county where you were convicted. You must also either pay a filing fee or provide a “poverty affidavit.”
On the day of your hearing, you need to be present to offer evidence as to why your expungement application should be approved by the court, such as explaining to the judge that the appropriate amount of time has passed since the conviction was placed on your record and that the charges are eligible for sealing. If the court determines that your interest in having the records sealed outweigh the government’s legitimate needs to maintain records in public view, and the court certifies that you are a fully rehabilitated first-time offender, then your expungement and sealing request will be granted.