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Ohio’s New and Improved Expungement and Sealing Laws

Ohio Senate Bill 66 Expands Number of Offenses Eligible for Expungement – Effective October 29th, 2018

Have you considered an expunging / sealing a criminal record, or perhaps you have been denied or told you did not qualify for an expungement in the past?  On October 29th, 2018, Senate Bill 66 became effective and is the largest expansion in the history of the Ohio Expungement Statute. This new law expands the number of convictions that can be expunged and sealed and will allow people to have criminal records expunged who were not eligible under previous Ohio law.  (The terms “Sealing of Records” and “Expungement” refer to the same legal process in Ohio.)

Ohio’s New Law Divides the Expungement Statute into Two Main Sections:

Expanding the number of convictions

Section (A)(1)(a) –  Ohio’s New Law Allows for Up To 5 Felony Convictions and Unlimited Misdemeanor Convictions to be Expunged and Sealed – 

Ohio’s new statute increases the number of convictions that can be expunged and sealed.  The definition of “eligible offender” has expanded to include anyone who has been convicted of up to 5 felony offenses and unlimited misdemeanor offenses.  However, several conditions apply to be eligible under this new Ohio expungement statute.  Some of these conditions include:

  1. None of the offenses are an “offense of violence“;
  2. None of the offenses are “felony sex offenses”;
  3. All the offenses are F4 or F5 degree felonies, or misdemeanors offenses;
  4. The total convictions include Ohio and convictions from any other state; and
  5. All offenses in another state must meet the conditions of the Ohio statute.

As a result, Ohio’s new record sealing law allows for expungement/sealing for people with up to five F4 or F5 degree felony convictions, and an unlimited number of misdemeanor convictions.   If you meet the conditions of (A)(1)(a), the new law makes it possible for all such convictions to be expunged and the records cleared.

Additional Eligibility for convictions not eligible under 1(a)

Section 2953.31(A)(1(b) – includes the previous Ohio law as it existed before Senate Bill 66 changes (allowing a person to expunge not more than one felony and one misdemeanor; or two misdemeanor convictions).  This law continues to apply to people who do not meet the conditions of section (A)(1)(a) above.  In other words, if a person is not eligible under the first section, they may still be eligible for expungement under the second section.

When a person is not an eligible offender for sealing up-to 5 felony offenses and unlimited misdemeanors under Section (A)(1)(a), they may still be eligible for an expungement of 2 offenses under the old sections of the statute retained under Section (A)(1)(b).  S.B. 66 kept provisions of the previous statute that existed prior to October 29th, 2018. This includes an alternate category of people who are defined as “eligible offenders” for Record Sealing of criminal convictions.

Under Section (A)(1)(b), a person can have an expungement for any of the following combinations of convictions: 1) no more than one felony conviction; or 2) not more than two misdemeanor convictions; or 3) not more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction.  In addition, when two or three convictions are based upon the same facts or circumstances, all the convictions may count as “one conviction.”  Therefore, Section (A)(1)(b), a person who meets the qualifications is eligible to seal up to 2 convictions.

In summary, if a person does not qualify for expungement under the new law – Section (A)(1)(a), they may choose to proceed under Section (A)(1)(b) to expunge up to 2 convictions.   This would occur when a person has either a Felony of the 3rd degree, a felony “sex offense”, or a “crime of violence”, and therefore they are not be eligible for expungement for up-to 5 Felony Convictions and unlimited misdemeanor conviction under  Section (A)(1)(b).   This same person may still be eligible to pursue an expungement for up to 2 offenses under Section (A)(1)(b) of the expungement statue.

New Waiting Periods Required Before Filing for Expungement

If a person is eligible to have multiple felony convictions and misdemeanors sealed under this new expungement law, an amendment to section 2953.32 imposes new waiting periods before a person can apply for sealing of their record.

  • Misdemeanor Convictions require a 1 year waiting period.
    • (this applies regardless of the number of misdemeanor convictions)
  • Bail Forfeiture in Misdemeanor Cases – requires 1 year from when entered by the court
  • 1 Felony Conviction requires a 3 year waiting period after final discharge of case
  • 2 Felony Convictions requires a 4 year waiting period after final discharge of case
  • 3 – 5 Felony Convictions requires a 5 year waiting period after final discharge of case

(If a person has a combination of Felony and Misdemeanor convictions, the waiting period could range from 1 – 5 years, depending on the offenses.)

No limit on Number of Dismissed Charges and Minor Misdemeanors that Can Be Expunged

Ohio Senate Bill 66 did not change the number of dismissed charges or minor misdemeanor charges that can be expunged and sealed.  Since these types of records are considered “non-conviction” offenses under Ohio Law, they do not count as a conviction toward a person’s total number of convictions.  Further, there is no limit on how many dismissed charges or minor misdemeanors that a person can have expunged.  As a result, a person may have the maximum number of convictions expunged permitted under the statute, and still have separate minor misdemeanor convictions or dismissed charges expunged as well.

Expanding Ohio Expungement Law is Good News but Creates More Complex Proceedings

Under the new statue, more people will be eligible to expunge old criminal records, even if they have been denied by a court in the past.  However, the new changes to the Ohio record-sealing process have become increasingly complex.  Some conditions do not apply equally between old and new provisions of the law. Further, a hearing is required where the court must review rehabilitation, consider prosecutor objections, balance the interest of the State against the applicant, and use their discretion to determine if a person qualifies to have their record sealed.  There will undoubtedly be confusion over the application of the new law by courts and prosecutors in the coming years.

Now, more than ever, it is important to speak with an attorney with experience in record sealing and expungement.  No one can afford to lose future opportunities by being denied an expungement that could have be won with an experienced lawyer.

Expungement and Record Sealing Lawyers – Contact us for a Free Consultation

Our law firm has been in business and located in central Ohio since 1988.  We have an  emphasis in expungement and sealing of criminal records in Ohio.   As trial attorneys and former prosecutors, we have the knowledge and experience to have your criminal record sealed.  We handle cases in all 88 counties of Ohio. Contact our Ohio law firm for a confidential free consultation.