Does Ohio expungement provide rights restoration?
Yes, an Ohio expungement enables rights restoration and privileges associated with being a citizen, not otherwise restored by the termination of the sentence of the court or by final release from all court sanctions.
Convictions Cause Loss of Rights and Privileges
Convictions of certain offenses, especially felony convictions, cause a person to lose rights and privileges as a citizen, such as the right to vote, serve on a jury; to hold an office that requires trust; or engaging in certain licensed businesses or professions in Ohio. Firearm rights are lost for convictions of violence and drug offenses. This loss of rights and privileges continue through incarceration and non-jail sanctions of community control. Some rights are restored upon completion of a prison term or final release from parole.
Rights restoration through the Expungement and Sealing Process
Expungement and Sealing of Record restores a person of all rights and privileges that may have not been restored by the termination of a prison sentence or court-related sanctions including community control or parole. (R.C. 2953.33) As part of the expungement restoration process, public and private employers, and state licensing authorities for occupations cannot ask a person questions about an expunged and sealed conviction. There is an exception to this general rule. An employer can ask questions about past criminal convictions when the questions are directly and substantially related to the job position for which the person is being considered and relate to the person’s qualifications for the position.
When a court orders a criminal record sealed, the proceedings in the underlying case “shall be considered not to have occurred.” R.C. 2953.32 The criminal records are removed from courts and public access. To assure the government complies with the intent of the sealing statute, Ohio law imposes a stiff penalty for any government employee who discloses a sealed conviction – they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor criminal offense.
Ohio courts have held that if a person qualifies for expungement of a conviction under R.C. 2953.32, the court “shall order all official records pertaining to the case sealed.” The Ohio Supreme Court stated in the case of State ex rel. Gains v. Rossi, 86 Ohio St.3d 620, that in “addition, the remedial expungement provisions of R.C. 2953.32 and 2953.33 must be liberally construed to promote their purposes.” Thus, the standard to be applied in an expungement case requires the court to weigh the interest of the public’s need to know against the individual’s interest in having the record sealed, and must liberally construe the statute so as to promote the legislative purpose of allowing expungements.” Since the expungement/sealing statute are to be liberally construed, the relief available is to be liberally granted. (State v. Hilbert, 145 Ohio App.3d 824)
Restricted Access to Expunged and Sealed Records
Most employers and landlords are not allowed to access sealed records from courts or law enforcement agencies. However, under certain circumstances, courts, certain types of licensed employers, or state employers may be allowed to see expunged records. (See our article Who Can See Sealed/ Expunged Records in Ohio? for further detail) For example, if there are future criminal investigations, courts and law enforcement can consider sealed records. Employers in law enforcement, or jobs working with children or the elderly, or jobs for financial institutions, or real estate, and most state professional licensing boards, can consider sealed convictions. This does mean that simply because a person has a sealed conviction, they would not qualify for one of these positions. Rather, the employer may have the discretion to consider a person’s accomplishments and character and still hire the applicant if they are the best person for the job.
Even if an employer falls into one of these exceptions and can inquire about a sealed record, today, employers understand expungement represents a person has been through this legal process and a Court has deemed the person worthy to have their record expunged and sealed. This can help to put an employer at ease knowing that a court believes the person has been rehabilitated and deserves and expungement. As a result, and expungement and sealing of an old criminal record can be influential for educational, licensure, and employment.
Experienced Ohio Expungement and Record Sealing Attorney
We are a trusted Ohio law firm and have been in business since 1988. We are familiar with the courts and we have years of success stories in obtaining expungements for our clients. We will help you put an old record behind you and get a second chance. For a confidential free expungement consultation, contact us today.