Ohio Criminal Record Sealing | Record Expungement in Ohio

Criminal Record Sealing

Ohio Criminal Record Sealing

Ohio Record Sealing and Expungement Lawyer

If you have been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime, you have probably discovered that your past record is available to anyone in the general public. This means that potential employers, college admission offices, or landlords (to name a few) can see that you have a criminal record. In fact, any business or person with Internet connection can easily look up your criminal record.

Our Ohio law firm has dedicated www.OhioExpungementLaw.com to help people clear their criminal record through the legal process known as Expungement and Sealing of Record. Our attorneys have represented thousands of people in counties throughout Ohio clear their criminal record. We understand that your future and your livelihood depend upon having a clean criminal record.

Experienced Ohio Attorney Explains Criminal Record Sealing
What is Sealing of Record in Ohio?
What is the Process to Seal a Criminal Record in Ohio?
What Are the Benefits of a Criminal Record Sealing?
Changes in Ohio Record Sealing and Expungement Laws
Am I Eligible for an Expungement and Sealing of My Criminal Record?
Do I Need a Lawyer / Attorney to Get a Sealing and Expungement of My Criminal Record?
How Long Does it Take to Get an Expungement and Sealing of Record?
Where Do I Apply for an Expungement and Sealing of Record?
Do I have to Appear in Court to Get a Record Sealed and Expunged?
What is The Waiting Period for Criminal Record Sealing and Expungement?
If I Do Not Live in Ohio, How Do I get My Ohio Record Sealed and Expunged?

Experienced Ohio Attorney Explains Criminal Record Sealing

(Review of Background of OhioExpungementLaw.com)

Gregory Mathews of the law firm, Fusco, Mackey, Mathews & Gill, LLP can help you determine if you are eligible to have your Ohio criminal record sealed. Attorney Mathews is a highly rated Ohio attorney who has been in private practice since 1988. As a former prosecutor and now serving as a criminal of defense lawyer, he has represented thousands of people and tried many cases.

After the 9/11 attack in 2001, Greg Mathews noticed an increase in the number of his clients who experienced problems with their prior convictions as the use of background checks became more common. He knew his clients were everyday people who had simply made a mistake, or who had a problem with substance abuse that lead them to make a bad decision. Greg didn’t believe that their past criminal record should continue to punish them for the rest of their lives. This was the beginning of www.OhioExpungementLaw.com

Greg and the law firm began a dedicated practice for people to have their record sealed and expunged so that their criminal conviction would not destroy their life or limit their future opportunities. As Greg began to focus his practice on Expungement and Sealing of Records, he has developed an excellent reputation among his clients, people, lawyers and Ohio Courts for his skill and knowledge of the laws for Ohio Record Sealing and Expungement. It was out of this passion for people and their families that Greg founded www.OhioExpungementLaw.com a legal practice devoted to sealing criminal records.

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What is Sealing of Record in Ohio?

A sealing of a criminal record, also known as expungement, is a legal process that allows a person to have any and all public references to a prior criminal record cleared and their court file sealed. Convictions for minor misdemeanors, misdemeanors and felony charges can be Sealed and Expunged. However, Sealing of Record is not just limited to records of convictions. Rather, it is important to understand that this valuable Sealing procedure is also available for other types of criminal records, such as a dismissed charge, no-bill charge, acquittal of charge, bail forfeitures, and juvenile charges. The statutes authorizing Sealing of Record and expungement are found in Title 2953 of the Ohio Revised Code. Sections 2953.31, 2953.32, 2953.52 are among some of the key statues that control who is eligible for an expungement, the conditions and hearing procedures for Sealing of Records.

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Changes in Ohio Record Sealing and Expungement Laws

(New Law Expands What and Who is Eligible for Expungement and Sealing of Record)

Ohio record sealing and expungement law changed in September of 2012. The new Ohio law allows more people the opportunity to have an old criminal record cleared and removed by expanding the types of convictions and how many convictions that can be sealed and expunged. If you were not eligible for sealing of your record in the past, you may be eligible under the new Ohio Record Sealing Expungement Statutes.

Prior to the change in the law, only first time offenders were eligible to have their records expunged. “First Offender” was defined as a person with only one conviction on their record. This means under the former expungement law, a person could only have one conviction. Minor misdemeanors and non-serious traffic offenses did not count as convictions for expungement purposes.

The major revision of the law for sealing and expungement changes the requirement of “First Offender” to “Eligible Offender.” An “Eligible Offender” is a person that “has not more than one felony conviction, not more than two misdemeanor convictions if the convictions are not of the same offense, or not more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction in this state or any other jurisdiction.” As a result, now people with the following convictions or combination of convictions qualify to have their criminal record sealed and expunged: 1) one felony conviction; or 2) one misdemeanor conviction; or 3) one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction even if they are not related to the same case, or 4) two misdemeanor convictions even if they are not related to the same case. (As under the previous law, convictions for minor misdemeanors, including most non-serious traffic offenses do not count as conviction. Further, 2-3 convictions related to the same case are considered as one conviction.)

Under the new Ohio expungement statute, a person can now obtain an expungement even though they may have received a previous expungement from a separate criminal conviction. As a result, a person can have two expungements from two different and separate cases. A prior expungement does not preclude an eligible offender from having a subsequent criminal conviction expunged. (However, a previous expungement of a criminal conviction does count as a conviction when determining the total number of convictions allowed to be expunged and sealed.)

It is critical for everyone to understand that if they were not eligible for sealing and expungement under the old law, or they were previously denied a Sealing of Record, they may now be eligible under the new law.

Another change in the Record Sealing Law relates to failure to pay child support. Criminal convictions for failure to pay child support were not eligible to be sealed under the old law. Provided that a person with fail to pay child support conviction becomes current in his support obligation, are now be eligible for sealing and expungement under the new Record Sealing Law.

If you were not been eligible for an expungement under the old Record Sealing Law, but you are not sure if you are eligible under the new Ohio Expungement law, or if you are considering an expungement for the first time, we can advise you if you meet the requirements to be eligible for sealing of your criminal record. Contact our law firm for a confidential and free consultation.

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What is the Process to Seal a Criminal Record in Ohio?

The legal process for obtaining Sealing of Record is controlled by Ohio Statute. In order to apply for an expungement, an applicant must be an “Eligible Offender” as defined by 2953.31. The applicant, typically through their attorney, will file a motion with the sentencing court where the conviction occurred. The probation department or court staff will investigate the background of the applicant to make sure that the offense or conviction is one that is permitted to be expunged and sealed, that there are no new charges pending, and that the applicant meets the qualifications Sealing their record.

If the prosecutor believes there is a problem or defect with an application for the expungement and sealing, the prosecutor may object to the motion. The prosecutor may object before the court hearing in a written memorandum filed with the court, but the prosecutor may raise their objections without warning on the day of the hearing for the Sealing of Record. If the prosecution objects, the applicant’s attorney should file additional memorandums in support with legal authority demonstrating why their clients sealing of record should be granted.

At the hearing for Sealing of the Record, the Judge has discretion to determine whether it will grant, or deny, the application for expungement and sealing of record based upon the evidence and arguments presented during the hearing. There are several factors which the Judge shall consider in balancing the interests of the state and maintaining the record verse the interest of the applicant and having the record sealed. The Judge will make the final decision if the motion should be granted typically the day of the expungement hearing. If the motion is granted, the judge will sign an Entry or Order of Expungement and Sealing of Record. The Clerk of Court will send this to all governmental agencies who maintain public records of the case, along with information regarding the arrest or conviction, requiring them to seal the documents and information about the record from public view and restoring the applicant’s rights as if the conviction never occurred.

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What Are the Benefits of a Criminal Record Sealing?

Background checks are now widely used in almost every business, government agency, and even charitable organizations. A criminal record will show up on background checks and you will be denied opportunities unless you take action to seal your record. Sealing a criminal record, even a dismissed charge, is valuable in many ways, such as: applying for a job, obtaining a professional license or certification; renting an apartment; applying for citizenship; seeking credit or financing; applying for educational programs; obtaining student loans; receiving public benefits; divorce proceedings and child custody; adoption of a child, traveling abroad; or even volunteering in your child’s school. In most cases, a sealed record will not show up on a background check and can be treated as if the offense never occurred. Further, after getting a criminal record sealed, with some limited exceptions, an individual may honestly reply on applications that the sealed offense does not exist.

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Am I Eligible for an Expungement and Sealing of My Criminal Record?

In Ohio, only an “Eligible Offender” may receive an expungement and sealing of their record. The definition of an eligible offender under the Ohio expungement and sealing law can be complicated since it’s determined by statute and Ohio case law. (This discussion is a summary, but given the recent changes in Ohio expungement and sealing laws, it is recommended that you contact us for a Free Consultation to determine if you are eligible for sealing and expungement of your criminal record.)

There are certain requirements that must first be met before an you are eligible to file an expungement and sealing of record, including: the waiting period for the type of record to be expunged has been met; there are no pending charges against you; and the conviction or record must be one permitted by Ohio Expungement Law. If you meet the initial qualifications for an expungement and sealing, then you have to know how many convictions or records can be expunged. In summary, people with the following convictions or combination of convictions are eligible for an expungement and sealing of their record:

 One felony conviction; or
 One misdemeanor conviction; or
 One felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction even if they are not related to the same case, or
 Two misdemeanor convictions even if they are not related to the same case.
 (**Please note, convictions for minor misdemeanors, including most non-serious traffic offenses do not count as conviction. ***Further, 2-3 convictions related to the same case are considered as one conviction.)
There are several exceptions and conditions to these basic eligibility requirements for sealing of criminal record. One important exception is if a person has convictions for two or three crimes based upon the same facts or circumstances, then all those convictions are considered “one conviction.” As an example, if person has three misdemeanor convictions out of one case, those three convictions count as one conviction, and that person would be eligible to have another conviction from a separate misdemeanor case expunged. Similarly, the misdemeanor case may include up to three convictions and still be counted as one conviction. As a result, the person in this example may have 6 actual convictions out of 2 separate cases and still be eligible for an expungement.

Further, certain criminal records do not count as a “conviction.” Convictions for minor misdemeanors, including most traffic charges, do not count as criminal convictions and should not prevent a person from having their criminal convictions expunged and sealed. Dismissed charges, acquittal of charge, findings of not guilty of a charge and bail forfeiture do not count as a conviction.

In addition, under some recent changes to the Ohio expungement statute, a person can have an expungement even though they may have received an expungement from a separate criminal conviction. This is because “Eligible Offenders” can have up to two separate expungements from two different cases. In other words, a prior expungement does not prevent an eligible offender from having a subsequent criminal conviction expunged. However, a previous expungement of a criminal conviction does count as a conviction when determining the total number of convictions allowed to be expunged and sealed.

In addition to convictions, other criminal records are eligible for expungement and sealing of record. There is no limit to the number of dismissed charges that can be sealed. Further there is no limit to the number of acquittal of charges, bail forfeitures (bond forfeitures), and no bill of charges that can be expunged.

Be aware, that there are a lot of exceptions and qualifications to these rules of who is eligible for expungement and sealing of record. Here are some general rules about what types of crimes that are not eligible for expungement and sealing of record:

 First- and second-degree felonies cannot be expunged
 Convictions of 3 or more crimes out of separate cases
 Convictions of 2 or more Felonies out of separate cases
 Convictions for felony sex crimes cannot be expunged
 Felony or Misdemeanor 1st degree Domestic violence convictions (misdemeanor 4th degree domestic violence can be expunged)
 DUI’s cannot be expunged
 Convictions for crimes that carry a mandatory prison sentence
 Felonies that were committed against minors and first-degree misdemeanors committed against minors
 Most violent crimes cannot be expunged (Misdemeanor Assault can be expunged)
 You cannot obtain an expungement if you have any current pending criminal or traffic charges

As set forth under the Ohio Expungement Law, ORC 2953.36, no convictions under O.R.C. Chapter 4507 (Driver’s License Law), O.R.C. 4510 (Driver’s License Suspension, Cancellation, Revocation), O.R.C. Chapter 4511 (Traffic Laws – Operation of a Motor Vehicle), or O.R.C. Chapter 4549 (Motor Vehicle Crimes), or for a violation of a municipal ordinance that is substantially similar to any section contained in any of those chapters, qualifies for an expungement. Similarly, bail forfeitures in traffic cases cannot be expunged.

In order to sort out all the different rules and conditions of Record Sealing, it is important to seek the advice of an in order to find out if your particular circumstance meets the eligibility requirements for Ohio expungement. For a more complete list of specific offenses that cannot be expunged under Ohio law, see our article entitle “List of Records That Can Not Be Expunged and Sealed.”

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Do I Need a Lawyer / Attorney to Get a Sealing and Expungement of My Criminal Record?

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
-Abraham Lincoln

Yes. If having your record sealed and expunged is important to you, and you want it done right, you should have a lawyer represent you through the legal process and at court.

An application to the court for a sealing and expungement of record requires drafting and filing a legal motion. The motion has to comply with the rules of the court, it has to be well written, it must present evidence to the court that you have been rehabilitated, and that you deserve an expungement and sealing. That motion has to be properly served on the prosecutor and the local probation department. If the prosecutor raises objections to the expungement, additional memorandums should be filed to counter the prosecutor’s arguments. In addition, the courts will schedule the application for expungement for court hearing in front of the trial judge. At the hearing, the Judge has discretion to determine whether he/she will grant, or deny, the application for sealing and expungement based upon the evidence and arguments presented at the hearing. There are several statutory elements which must be addressed during the expungement hearing to convince the Judge you qualify for an expungement. If you don’t follow the legal procedures and submit the correct proof, your record will not be sealed and expunged.

There are lots of internet businesses that will tell you don’t need a lawyer to get an expungement – just buy their forms and do it yourself. We know because we have represented plenty of people who have relied on scam sites who give wrong advice, and as a result, their sealing and expungement was denied. In other cases, people call us in distress because their case was scheduled for a court hearing and the internet expungement service business provides no help for the hearing. Many of these internet sealing and expungement businesses are based in another state outside Ohio, such as New Jersey, California, Michigan, Kentucky…, and some have no actual office in Ohio.

It is no surprise that some of these large record removal or record clearing businesses have some of the lowest ratings because their customers don’t receive what they are promised. Many of these record clearing service offer inaccurate legal information and wrong advice about Ohio expungement laws on their websites. Different courts have different requirements and procedures for expungement and one form or approach doesn’t work for every court. A cheap expungement form, or a record removal service, cannot replace the need for an experienced expungement attorney with knowledge of Ohio expungement law.

No one should trust their personal and confidential information to these one of these internet record expungement and sealing businesses. They provide you with no attorney-client confidentiality and there is no guarantee what may happen to your personal information. Before you invest your time and money with one of these scam businesses, you should first speak with our licensed expungement lawyers who live and practice in Ohio.

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How Long Does it Take to Get an Expungement and Sealing of Record?

As soon as the waiting period has expired, a person may apply for sealing of record with the court. Usually an applicant will hire an attorney who files the motion (or motions) to expunge and seal the record. The attorney may have to serve the probation department or other court personnel with the application for expungement. Once the case has been filed, the probation and prosecutors will commence their investigation of the applicant to determine if they qualify for sealing and expungement. The case will be scheduled for hearing before the court. Different courts have different time-tables for how soon they will schedule the sealing and expungement hearing. We have found some Ohio courts schedule expungement hearings within weeks after filing the motion for Sealing of Record, while other courts may schedule the hearing in two to three months.

While the expungement case is pending, the prosecution may file objections to the sealing and expungement and the applicant’s attorney may file additional pleadings and documents in support of his/her client. At the day of the hearing, the attorney and their client will appear for oral arguments, and in some cases, testimony. (In cases where our clients are unable to appear for the hearing, we have been successful in having their appearance waived so they do not have to attend and we appear on their behalf.) The judge will make their decision on the day of the hearing. If the judge grants the motion to expunge and seal the record, the order goes into effect immediately. We always obtain a certified copy of the court entry and provide these to our clients in the event they need proof of the expungement in the future.

The Judge’s Order Sealing of Record and Expungement goes into effect the day it is granted at the hearing. However, there is a process that occurs within the weeks and months following the hearing to clear and remove all expunged records from the public databases. The county where the criminal record originated will remove all records from the court, the clerk’s office, probation offices, police departments, sheriff’s departments and other County records, usually within five to 10 days following the hearing.

After the county has clear their records, the entry for expungement and sealing of record will be certified to the State of Ohio. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification (“BCI&I”) is the central depository for criminal records in the State of Ohio. BCI&I will then begin the process to remove the criminal record from all public records at the state level. After BCI&I receive notification of the expunged record, their process to remove state records can take two to four months to complete.

After BCI&I have completed removing the criminal records from the databases and public records in the State of Ohio, BCI&I will certify the matter on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). Typically, once the FBI receives certification of the record sealing from Ohio BCI&I, they will note that the record has been expunged and sealed but it will take approximately 30 days for them to complete their process.

Expungement and sealing of a record should be pursued as soon as a person is eligible. All too often, we receive calls from individuals who have a job interviews, scheduled in a couple weeks and they would like us to obtain an expungement and sealing of record prior to the interview. Unfortunately, and expungement and sealing of the record cannot be done in just a few weeks. All steps of the expungement and sealing process have to be done correctly and in the right sequence in order for the criminal record to be properly sealed and expunged. If done incorrectly, the process can take much longer than needed or may even be denied because improper procedures were followed. It may take months after the motion for expungement and sealing of record is filed before the criminal record is fully removed from all public databases. As a result, it’s better to begin the expungement and sealing process months in advance of that job interview, college application, renting an apartment, whatever your need for expungement and sealing may be. Since we can’t predict the future, it’s always better to apply for expungement and sealing of your criminal record now in order to complete the process before you need it.

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Where Do I Apply for an Expungement and Sealing of Record?

The Ohio Sealing of Record Statute requires that you apply to the sentencing court where you were convicted or where the criminal record occurred. If your case was a minor misdemeanor or misdemeanor charge, you would be required to apply for expungement and sealing at the Municipal Court or County Court where the charge occurred. If your case was a felony offense, you would be required to apply in the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the criminal offense occurred.

If you’re conviction or criminal case arose out of federal court or from a court in another state, then Ohio expungement and sealing law does not apply. If your criminal record is from another state, you will have to apply for expungement and sealing of record in the state where your criminal case occurred. Please be advised that there is no expungement or sealing of record process for United States Federal Courts.

Each court in Ohio has their own rules and procedures that apply to the expungement and sealing process. Our years of experience and knowledge in representing people for expungements and sealing of records enables us to provide you accurate and trusted advise wherever the court is located in Ohio.

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Do I have to Appear in Court to Get a Record Sealed and Expunged?

After an application for expungement has been properly filed with the court, the court will schedule a hearing for the Sealing of Record and Expungement. Ohio Statute, O.R.C. 2953.32 and 2953.52, requires that a hearing be conducted for every application for sealing and expungement. However, in many cases, our clients are not available to personally appear for an expungement hearing. They may live in another state or even another country. Even if they still live in Ohio, people may have responsibilities that can make it difficult or burdensome to attend the expungement hearing. In those cases, we have successfully filed motions with the court to waive their appearance so they do not have to attend the expungement hearing. The court may then agree to schedule a non-oral hearing and decide the case based upon our briefs and motions, or the court may agree that the client does not have to attend the hearing but require us as the attorney to personally appear at the hearing on behalf of our clients. Our clients have found this to be helpful so that they don’t have to incur the expense of travel, time off work, or the time related to having to attend the sealing and expungement hearing.

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What is The Waiting Period for Criminal Record Sealing and Expungement?

Under Ohio law, there is a waiting period after a criminal case is closed before a person is eligible to apply for an expungement and sealing of their criminal record. For Misdemeanor Convictions, the waiting period is one year. Felony convictions require a waiting period of three years. If a grand jury returns a No Bill for a charge, the criminal record of the No Bill has a waiting period of two years. If a person has a record for a bail forfeiture out of a municipal court or county court, the waiting period before they can apply for an expungement and sealing is one year. There is no waiting period to file for an expungement and sealing for Dismissed Charges and Acquittal of Charges and they can be sealed any time after the conclusion of the case.

There is a different rule that applies to the waiting period for sealing and expungement in cases where a person has been charged with multiple charges in the same case. When a person is charged with two or more offenses in one case, and at least one of the charges as has a different sentence or penalty than the of other charges, that person may not apply for an expungement and sealing of his record for any of the charges until such time as he would be able to apply to the court and have all of the records in for each charge in a case expunged and sealed. This is complicated and requires the assistance of an attorney.


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If I Do Not Live in Ohio, How Do I get My Ohio Record Sealed and Expunged?

You may have a past criminal record in Ohio but you now live in another state, or even in another country. You may question, “how do I get my Ohio record expunged, or do I have to go to the court hearing in Ohio for an expungement and sealing.” We have represented many people who cannot be present for their expungement hearing because they live in another state or country. We understand that our clients have families, jobs, and other responsibilities that may make it a great burden for them to personally attend the hearing for their case. In most all of these cases, we are able arrange with the Ohio courts, by motion, to appear on behalf of our out-of-state clients so that they do not have to personally appear for the expungement hearing. We handle appearances on behalf of our out of state clients for expungement hearings in all of Ohio’s 88 counties. In other words, if you can’t go to the expungement hearing, we will go to the hearing for you.

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