Criminal offenses are included in public records in Ohio. Therefore, a potential employer, landlord, or other parties might have access to your criminal history and conviction records. Expungement is a way to clear your criminal record so you can move on with your life after a criminal conviction.
It’s important to note at the onset that the State of Ohio does not outright expunge criminal records. Instead, criminal records are “sealed.” This means that they still technically exist – however, sealed records have largely the same practical effect as expunged records.
What Is the Process of Sealing Criminal Records in Ohio?
To expunge means to obliterate, destroy, or strike out records and information. Ohio Revised Statute §2953.32 sets the rules for having a criminal record sealed in Ohio. To begin the process, you must submit a petition to the court and pay the $50 filing fee.
The court schedules a hearing to determine if you qualify to have your criminal record sealed. The prosecutor’s office that handled your criminal case could file a formal objection to a sealed conviction outlining their reasons for objecting to sealing your criminal record.
The judge listens to both sides at the hearing as they present their arguments in favor and against sealing your criminal record. The court considers all matters related to your application and then determines:
- Whether your record is eligible for sealing
- Whether you have been fully rehabilitated
The judge then considers whether to grant your request. Approved requests result in your criminal record being sealed against public viewing. However, law enforcement agencies and judges can still access the records.
What Types of Cases Are Eligible to Be Sealed in Cincinnati, OH?
Convicted criminals must meet specific qualifications before their criminal record can be sealed. The requirements to have a record sealed in Ohio are:
- The individual cannot be the subject of any open criminal proceedings against them.
- The criminal conviction must be the person’s first offense. However, minor misdemeanor offenses are not offenses the court counts for this requirement.
- It must have been over three years since the person completed their sentence for a felony conviction.
- It must have been at least a year since the person completed their sentence for a misdemeanor conviction.
- If the application is to seal a criminal charge, the criminal charges must have been dismissed, or the person was acquitted.
It is not always clear whether a criminal conviction is eligible for sealing. Therefore, before beginning the process and paying the fee, you might want to consult with a Cincinnati defense lawyer.
Are There Crimes and Individuals Who Are Not Eligible for Sealing?
There are exceptions to the law allowing convicted criminals to seal their criminal records. Ohio Revised Statute §2953.36 lists the crimes that do not qualify for criminal record sealing:
- Any crime that results in mandatory prison sentences
- Crimes of inciting violence
- Gross sexual imposition
- Felonies of the first and second degree
- Unlawful sexual conduct with a minor
- Sexual battery
- Pandering obscenity involving a minor
Many crimes are eligible to be sealed under Ohio law. The record is not wiped away or erased. However, the public cannot view a sealed record, which can avoid many of the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
You are not required to hire a lawyer to file a request to seal a criminal record. However, hiring a lawyer to handle your request has advantages.
First, the lawyer confirms that your criminal conviction is eligible to be sealed. Instead of wasting your time filing documents and paying the filing fee, you can meet with a lawyer to quickly determine whether you qualify for expungement of your criminal record.
Second, hiring a criminal defense attorney to handle the matter means you have someone to complete and submit the forms for you. Generally, filing a request to have a criminal conviction sealed requires a great deal of paperwork.
The documents must be completed in full and correctly. Submitting incorrect or incomplete documents could result in the court denying your request. At the very least, your request could be delayed and require you to complete additional documents.
Having an attorney complete the documents can avoid unnecessary delays and a denial of your request.
Lastly, hiring an attorney means you have someone to represent you at the court hearing. If the prosecutor objects to your request, you must present a compelling legal argument why the judge should grant your request to seal criminal records over the prosecutor’s objections.
Your attorney understands the process, law, and legal requirements for having a criminal record sealed. He can present evidence and arguments to refute the prosecutor’s grounds for objecting to your request. Your attorney ensures that the judge understands your reasons for making the request and that you have been fully rehabilitated since your criminal conviction.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation With Our Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyers
Have you been charged with a crime? Our legal team is ready to defend you and fight for a dismissal or acquittal. Contact our law firm to discuss your case with an experienced Cincinnati criminal defense attorney during a free consultation.