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Posted on: December 15, 2021 | by: admin
The origin of Ohio’s current process for Criminal Record Sealing, also commonly known as Record Expungement, can be traced back to Juvenile Courts and their youth offender programs. It was designed to supply an incentive for juvenile offenders to turn their life around and have a fresh start as they moved into their adult life. To this day, Ohio Juvenile Courts have broader powers than adult courts to seal and expunge Juvenile records.
In 1974 Ohio introduced its first legal process for adults to seal/expunge their criminal records. For many years, a person had to be a “First Offender” to be eligible for an expungement. While there were many conditions, this simply meant that a person could have only one misdemeanor or only one felony conviction to be eligible. If you had more than one offense, or you did not meet the conditions, you did not qualify and there were no exceptions. Since then, the Ohio legislature has amended the Expungement Statute multiple times to expand who is eligible to have their criminal record sealed.
A notable change to the expungement law occurred in 1990 when the statute extended the definition of “First Offender” to allow merging multiple charges that were committed at the same time or result from the same legal proceedings, to count as one conviction. This was the first step, but a big step, toward the legislature moving away from the hard and fast rule of allowing only one conviction to be sealed. This merger provision still exists in the current statute.
During the following years, Ohio’s expungement law underwent a period of rapid change. In 2012, the law expanded to allow up to 2 misdemeanors, or one misdemeanor and one felony to be expunged. With some minor changes, this stayed the law until 2018, at which time Senate Bill 143 radically altered the definition of who was eligible from a “First Offender” to an “Eligible Offender.” Shortly after this, the Ohio lawmakers passed one of the greatest changes to the statute with Senate Bill 66 in October 2018. They further expanded the definition of Eligible Offender to allow up to 5 convictions for felony 5th degree and 4th-degree offenses and unlimited misdemeanors provided a person met the qualifications of the statute.
In April of 2021, Ohio House Bill 1 made huge changes to the Ohio Expungement Statute which sent shock waves through the legal community. The earlier cap limiting expungement to 5 felony convictions was removed to permit an unlimited number of convictions for Felony 5th degree and Felony 4th Degree offenses, and an unlimited number of misdemeanor convictions to be sealed. In addition, HB1 reduced the waiting periods required before filing an application to seal a criminal record. There are still many limitations and conditions that apply to this legal remedy. But if you do not qualify for unlimited F4 and F5 felonies or unlimited misdemeanor convictions under one provision of the statute, a person could still pursue expungement under an alternative provision that still allowed for expungement of up to 4 misdemeanor convictions, or up to two felony convictions and two misdemeanor convictions.
Five months after the sweeping changes of HB 1, Ohio added yet another amendment to the expungement statute. In September 2021, House Bill 110 changed the definition of “official records” that are subject to sealing to include records in the possession of any public office related to the application, the issuance, or denial, of a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE). In addition, HB 110 allows the Governor to make an unconditional Governor’s pardon sealable and not subject to public inspection.
Ohio Record Sealing Law is currently divided into TWO CATEGORIES of “Eligible Offenders”. A person must fall into one of these two categories to be eligible to have their criminal record(s) sealed. The following breaks down the difference between these two categories based upon the applicable sections of Ohio Revise Code 2953.31.
SECTION A – Eligible Offenders
SECTION B – Eligible Offenders
(Section B allows for merging two or more convictions that result from offenses committed at the same time, or multiple convictions that occur from the same legal proceedings, to be counted as one conviction. If the merger provision applies, a person may have several convictions sealed under Section B)
The ultimate effect of all these amendments allows more people to qualify for expungement and allows for added criminal offenses to be expunged and sealed. Even people who were denied an expungement by a court in the past may now be eligible to have their records sealed.
These new changes to Ohio law also create a complex legal process for individuals, prosecutors, and Judges. We have already seen confusion between courts over the application of the new law. Hearings are still required, and the judge must still consider the prosecutors’ objections; whether a person meets each element of the statute, and whether they prove rehabilitation. At the hearing, the judge must then weigh the interest of the State against the applicant and apply their discretion to either grant or deny an application for expungement. Expungement is not a right. Rather the burden to proof rest on the person who wishes to have their record sealed. If they do not meet their burden of proof, the Judge will deny their application.
It is more important now than ever to have an attorney with experience in record sealing and expungement standing for your interest. You cannot afford to have your expungement denied and lose out on future opportunities.
Expungement and Sealing of an old criminal record is an excellent way for you to close a chapter on a past mistake and move forward with your life. We are dedicated to helping people get a second chance. Our law firm has been in business since 1988 and we know the laws related to Ohio expungement and sealing. Contact us for a confidential and free expungement consultation.