Sealing Your Criminal Record
To begin with, it’s important to realize that, in Ohio, the process of clearing one’s criminal record is referred to as Sealing Your Criminal Record. The term expungement is often used interchangeably but refers to the same thing. Secondly, not every person or crime is eligible to seal your criminal record. In order to determine whether any barriers exist between you and a clean record, you must first ask yourself a number of questions.
The term eligible offender is defined in the Ohio Revised Code (2953.31) and speaks to the number of convictions one can have to maintain eligibility. As a general rule, an eligible offender can have at most:
- No more than 2 misdemeanor convictions; or
- No more than 1 misdemeanor conviction and 1 felony conviction
Is my conviction on the prohibited list?
Not all criminal convictions are treated equally. Certain crimes are prohibited from being sealed/expunged. A detailed list can be found in the Ohio Revised Code (2953.36) but categorically speaking, the following types of convictions cannot be sealed/expunged:
- 1st or 2nd-degree felonies, or any offense with a mandatory prison term
- Any felony or 1st-degree misdemeanor charge involving a victim under the age of 18
- Any offense of violence as defined in the Ohio Revised Code (except for misdemeanor convictions of riot, inducing panic, inciting to violence, or assault)
- Most sex offenses
- Certain automobile offenses (including OVI/DUI) and any traffic offense
Has enough time passed since my conviction?
An applicant is required to wait a statutorily mandated period of time after the final discharge of their case (including time on probation or parole) before being eligible to apply. Those times are as follows:
- Misdemeanors: one year
- Felonies: three years
Am I currently facing any criminal proceedings?
While pending criminal cases are not considered convictions, a court is prohibited from sealing/expunging your conviction while that case is pending.
The above list addresses the most common barriers to sealing/expunging one’s record, but it is not exhaustive. And keep in mind, sealing/expungement is a privilege and not a right. A court may, but is not required to grant the application of an eligible offender. An experienced attorney can help in navigating the statutory requirements to determine your eligibility, carving out exceptions, and advocating the court on your behalf
To learn more, contact the expert criminal defense lawyers of Dworken & Bernstein.
In Lake County, call 440.946.7656
In Cuyahoga County, call 216.861.4211