Restitution Requirement in Ohio
Recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling regarding expungement requirements
The Ohio Supreme Court made a decision in October of 2014 that a person is not eligible to have a conviction expunged and sealed until the person has paid all court order restitution in their case. In State v. Aguirre, 2014 Ohio 4603, the Ohio Supreme Court held an offender does not attain a final discharge, and is thus is ineligible to have his or her conviction sealed under R.C. 2953.32 until all court-ordered restitution has been paid.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Aguirre, the 10th District Court of Appeals and the 8th District Court of Appeals disagreed whether restitution was required to be eligible for expungement. In this case, Sharlene Aguirre was convicted of theft for stealing money from her employer. Aguirre was sentenced to five years of community control and ordered to pay restitution of approximately $35,000. She made a $4,000 payment soon after her sentencing and then started making monthly payments. Aguirre finished her 5 year community control in 2007 but she continued making payments. In 2012, she applied for an expungement of her record of the theft conviction. At that time she still owed approximately $14,000 in restitution. The trial court granted the expungement/sealing. The 10th District Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court. The State appealed to the Supreme Court.
Restitution is key for Ohio Expungement
On review, the Ohio Supreme Court held that, according to Ohio Expungement and Sealing Law, and expungement case law, offenders may apply to have their records sealed only if they first meet two requirements: 1) they obtain a “final discharge” of their sentence; and, 2) the statutory waiting period for expungement has passed.
Further, the Supreme Court noted that Ohio courts have historically held that and offender is not finally discharged for purposes of Ohio Expungement Law (Ohio Revised Code 2953.32 et. seq.) if the offender still owes restitution. Therefore, discharge from community control does not constitute a “final discharge” for purposes of the Expungement Statute.
The Court noted that expungement and sealing a record is first and foremost an act of grace. In other words, it is a privilege, not a right. The Court stated: “No court is ever required to seal conviction records… But the General Assembly has decreed that courts are required to refuse to seal a record when the offender is not yet eligible to have their conviction records sealed. No discretionary consideration can justify granting an application to seal before the offender has established eligibility to apply.”
Do you want to know if you are eligible for record expungement?
Our Ohio law firm has been in business and located in central Ohio since 1988. We are not an out of state law firm. We know Ohio laws related to Sealing of Criminal Record and Expungement. As trial attorneys and former prosecutors, we have the knowledge and experience to have your criminal record sealed. We handle expungement and record sealing cases in all 88 counties of Ohio.