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New Ohio Law no Longer Limits Opportunity to Seal Records to First Time Offenders

Ohio recently changed the laws on getting your criminal record “expunged” or “sealed.” On September 19, 2014, a new law went into effect which expanded the group of offenders who can apply to have their criminal record sealed. Before September 19, 2014, only first time offenders could apply to have their record expunged. The new law changed this, and now allows anyone who qualifies as an “eligible offender” to apply to have their criminal record sealed. So who exactly is an eligible offender?

Eligible Offenders include those who have been convicted in Ohio or any other jurisdiction for:

(i) no more than one (1) felony conviction; OR

(ii) no more than two (2) misdemeanor convictions (if not from the same offense); OR

(iii) no more than one (1) felony conviction and (1) misdemeanor conviction.

If you have two (2) or more convictions resulting from or connected with the same act, or resulting from the same offenses committed at the same time, this counts as one conviction for purposes of determining whether you are an eligible offender.

When you have two (2) or (3) convictions that result from the same indictment, information or complaint, guilty plea or official proceeding AND they resulted from related criminal acts that were committed within a three (3) month period (but ARE NOT the SAME act or from offenses committed at the same time) the Court MAY treat these as one conviction. (For example you are charged with theft on May 15, 2014 and June 2, 2014, the Court may treat these convictions as one for purposes of determining if you are an eligible offender).

Other rules come into play when determining whether or not you can apply to have your criminal record sealed, and ultimately, whether or not to grant an “expungement” or to seal a person’s record is in the discretion of the Court. Factors the Court examines includes: whether you are an eligible offender, whether there are criminal proceedings pending against you, whether you have been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court, whether the prosecutor filed an objection, and the interests of having the records sealed v. the court’s interest in keeping them open. It is important to check with your attorney to see what options may be available to you under this new law.

Sources: ORC 2953.32, ORC 2953.31, ORC 2953.36, Fresh Start Clinic, Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office, http://www.hamiltoncountypd.org/index.php?page=fresh-start-2.

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