Expungement Changes in Ohio
Expungement – Clearing Your Record
Our legal system recognizes that people make mistakes. Even criminal convictions should not remain on your record forever if the crime was minor and you have led an otherwise law abiding life. To publicly seal your criminal record, you can apply for an expungement.
Ohio’s expungement law changed significantly last September to allow more people to expunge their record. Under the old law only first time offenders were eligible for expungement. The new law considers a person eligible for an expungement if they have either:
- one felony conviction;
- one or two different misdemeanor convictions, or
- one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction.
Many crimes don’t qualify for expungement. Serious felonies, such as murder and rape, are obviously not eligible. Some violent misdemeanors, like domestic violence, as well as traffic offenses (even speeding convictions) can’t be sealed.
A waiting period must occur before applying for expungement: three years for a felony and one year for a misdemeanor. The waiting period begins to run once the offender has been released from jail or probation. Additionally, all fines and restitution from the earlier conviction must have been paid in full and warrants or pending charges must be closed.
To apply for expungement you must first file for the process in the same court where the conviction occurred. There is a $50 filing fee to expunge a criminal conviction. However, the fee can be waived if you are indigent. The judge that heard the original case, or his/her successor, will then consider your filing. The judge will determine whether you are eligible by law. If you are eligible but the prosecutor objects, he will weigh your interest in clearing your record against the government’s interest in maintaining the record of conviction. He has the final discretion to grant or deny the expungement.
Many people are surprised that dismissed charges appear on their record. A person may apply to expunge these charges regardless of the reason for their dismissal. There is no waiting period, filing fee or limit to the number of dismissed charges that can be sealed. However, charges dismissed as part of a plea bargain cannot be expunged. Felonies ignored by the grand jury can be sealed after a two-year waiting period.
If you are interested in expunging a criminal conviction or a dismissed charge, go to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Room 112 of the Hamilton County Justice Center at 1000 Sycamore St. or call 946-6010 for further information.
By Adam Hunt