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Ohio House Bill 1 (HB-1), Expands the number of convictions and people Eligible for Expungement – Effective April 12, 2021

This is Part 2 of a previous article regarding new changes to Ohio Expungement Statute in 2021.  In our previous article, we discussed impact of Senate Bill 10 and House Bill 431 (HB-431) that became effective in April 2021.  In this article we will examine the new expungement law created by House Bill 1 (HB-1), effective April 12, 2021.

Ohio Expungement Law Changes in Ohio House Bill 1

House Bill 1 (“HB 1”) creates the largest changes to the Ohio Expungement and Sealing statute since the Senate Bill 66 in 2018.  The HB-1 substantially expands the Ohio Record Sealing Law so that more people and more convictions are eligible for expungement and sealing.  This also means that people who were not eligible under the prior Ohio law will be eligible to have their records expunged under the new Ohio law. (The terms “Sealing of Records” and “Expungement” are commonly referred to the same legal process in Ohio.)

Ohio House Bill 1 Expands the Number of Convictions Eligible for Expungement

The Old Law:

2953.31 (A)(1)(a) – allowed a person to have up to 5 Felony Convictions and unlimited misdemeanor convictions to be expunged and sealed if none of the offenses were offenses of  violence or felony sex offenses.  If a person exceeded these limits or had an excluded offense, they were not eligible under this section.

2953.31(A)(1(b) – If a person did not qualify under the above section, then they could expunge eligible offenses but not more than one felony offense and one misdemeanor: or two misdemeanor convictions.

HB-1 New Law:

HB 1 – 2953.31 (A)(1)(a) – Unlimited Misdemeanors and F4, F5 convictions

Ohio’s new statute eliminates the cap of 5 eligible Felony 5th degree and 4th degree convictions.  The definition of and “eligible offender” is expanded to include anyone who has been convicted of unlimited eligible fourth degree and fifth degree felony convictions and unlimited misdemeanor offenses.  Several conditions apply under this new section of the expungement law.  Some conditions include:

1) none of the convictions are an offense of violence

2) none of the convictions are “felony sex offenses”

3) none of the offenses are Felony 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree conviction

3) all convictions are Felony 4th or 5th degree, or misdemeanors convictions

4) convictions from other states must be considered

5) any convictions from other another state must be an equivalent to a F4 or F5 in Ohio.

If you meet the conditions of 2953.01(A)(1)(a), the new law makes it possible for all such convictions to be expunged and the records cleared. As a result, Ohio’s new record sealing law permits expungement for people with unlimited number of Felony fourth degree convictions or felony fifth degree convictions, and an unlimited misdemeanor degree offenses.

HB-1 –  2953.31(A)(1(b)

This section is an alternative provision if a person does not qualify under the (A)(1)(a) section described above.  In other words, if a person is not an eligible for unlimited felony F4, F5, or misdemeanors convictions under Section (A)(1)(a), they may be eligible for up to 4 convictions under the new HB-1 section  (A)(1)(b).

Under the new Section (A)(1)(b), a person can have an expungement for any of the following combinations of convictions: 1) no more than two felony convictions; or 2) no more than four misdemeanor convictions; or 3) if the person has exactly two felony convictions, has no more than those two felony convictions and two misdemeanor convictions in this state or any other jurisdiction.

In addition, when two or more convictions result from the same act or offenses committed at the same time, they shall count as “one conviction.”  Also, if convictions result from the same legal proceedings and related acts, they may be count as “one conviction” under this section (A)(1)(b).  If a person is qualified to combine convictions under these exceptions, they could exceed the limit of 4 convictions under (A)(1)(b).

Regardless of the number of convictions, or combination of convictions, under (A)(1)(b), the conviction sought to sealed must be an eligible offense, the person seeking the expungement must be an “Eligible Offender”, and the person must prove he meets all other requirements of Ohio’s Expunge statue.

Ohio HB-1 Creates Shorter Waiting Periods for Expungement

The Old Law:

R.C.2953.32  After person completes all the requirements of the criminal case, their case is discharged, and their offense is eligible for expungement, they were required to wait a specific time before they could file a motion to have their record sealed.  The old law had the following waiting periods:

Misdemeanor Convictions       1-year

1 Felony Conviction                   3-years

2 Felony Convictions                 4-years

3 – 5 Felony Convictions           5-years

HB 1 New Law:

R.C. 2953.32  The new expungement law changes the required waiting period a person must wait before filing a motion to expunge their record.  The new waiting periods for expungement are as follows:

Misdemeanor Convictions –  1-year

Felony 4th or 5th Degree Convictions –  1-year

Felony 3rd degree Convictions – 3-years

Conviction of 2921.43 –   7-years

This new change to the waiting periods for expungement is a HUGE IMPROVEMENT for people who have Felony Convictions and who previously had to wait 3 to 5 years after their case was discharged to file for expungement.

For example, if someone was convicted of three  Felony 4th degree charges and they were placed on probation/community control for 3 years following their case and completed all the requirements of the case.  Under the Old Law, they would not be eligible to file for expungement until 5 after completion of the probation/community control.  That would be over 8 years after they were convicted.  Under the New Law, they would be able to file for expungement 1 year after completion of their probation, that would be 4 years after their conviction.  In this example, the new law cuts the waiting time in half from the previous version of the statute!

Changes to Expungement Statute Create More Complex Legal Proceedings

These changes are great news!  Ohio’s new Record Sealing Law opens the opportunity for expungement for more people, even those who were not eligible in the past, or people who have been previously denied expungement by a court.  These new changes to Ohio law also create increasingly complex legal process for individuals, prosecutors, and Judges.  There will certainly be more legislation to remedy conflicts in the statute and confusion over the application of the new law.

Hearings are still required, and the judge must still consider evidence of rehabilitation, review prosecutors’ objections, weigh the interest of the State against the applicant, and apply their discretion to either grant or deny an application for expungement.

It is more important than ever to have an attorney with experience in record sealing and expungement representing your interest.  You cannot afford to lose out on future opportunities by being denied sealing of an old criminal record, when you could have won your case with an experienced expungement lawyer.

Dismissed Charges and Minor Misdemeanors that Can Be Expunged

There is no limit on the number of dismissed charges or minor misdemeanor charges that can be sealed under the HB 1. Dismissed charges and minor misdemeanor charges still leave a public record available to any one to discover by a few clicks of a mouse.  It is also important to know that dismissed charges or minor misdemeanor charges do not count as a conviction toward a person’s total number of convictions.   Even if a person maxes out the number of expungements permitted under the statue, they can still have multiple dismissed charges or minor misdemeanor charges expunged and sealed.

Are You Eligible to Have Your Criminal Record Sealed and Expunged?

There is only one way to know for sure.  Take our Free On-Line Eligibility Test or give us a call.  Our law firm has been in business and located in central Ohio since 1988.  Our law firm has an  emphasis in expungement and sealing of Ohio criminal records.   As trial attorneys and former prosecutors, we can use our experience to help you get a second chance.  We handle cases in all 88 counties of Ohio. Contact our Ohio law firm for a confidential and free consultation.