Expungement (Sealing Criminal Records)
The law in Ohio provides a statutory privilege for certain qualifying individuals to apply to the Court in order to have certain convictions permanently removed and sealed from their record. The purpose of this statutory privilege is to allow individuals a one‑time opportunity under certain circumstances to have charges forever cleared from their criminal record, so that the record of conviction does not prohibit them from obtaining employment or seeking continuing education.
The expungement process begins by filing a written application with the Court, in which the applicant requests that a particular conviction be expunged and sealed. In Hamilton County, the court requires a fee of fifty dollars per expungement application for a conviction. Where a defendant was found not guilty, the charges were dismissed, or if the case was ignored by the grand jury, there is no application fee. After the Court receives and processes an expungement application, it forwards the application to the Prosecutor=s Office for review and response. The Prosecutor’s Office will typically respond in writing concerning the position of the State on the issue of expungement.
When reviewing an application for expungement, the Prosecutor’s Office typically reviews whether four distinct criteria have been satisfied:
1. The applicant must have received a final discharge on the conviction. An individual is not eligible to seek expungement of a criminal conviction until after final discharge of the case. If an individual is not placed on probation by the Court, final discharge of the case is the date of conviction. If an individual is placed on probation by the Court, final discharge of the case is the date of termination of the probation.
2. The application must be filed after the statutory waiting period. The law in Ohio provides that an individual is not eligible to seek expungement until one (1) year after the final discharge of a qualifying misdemeanor charge, and three (3) years after the final discharge of a qualifying felony charge. A conviction for a minor misdemeanor arguably has no waiting period.
3. The applicant qualifies as a Afirst offender. The law in Ohio provides that an individual seeking to expunge a criminal conviction cannot have any other criminal convictions on their record both prior to and subsequent to the offense sought to be expunged, other than minor misdemeanor traffic violations and minor misdemeanor offenses such as possession of marijuana and disorderly conduct. In other words, at the time of the application, the applying individual cannot have any other conviction than that which is sought to be expunged.
4. The conviction to be expunged is not precluded by statute from being expunged. The law in Ohio provides that certain specific offenses cannot under any circumstances be expunged, which include, but are not limited to, OVI/DUI/DWI Drunk Driving offenses, sex crimes, and some crimes of violence.
Following the State’s response to the expungement application, a hearing takes place on the record before a judge to determine whether the conviction should be expunged and sealed from an individuals record. If the assistant prosecuting attorney does not oppose the expungement application, the Court will typically order that the applicant’s criminal conviction be expunged and sealed.
Once a criminal conviction is expunged and sealed, it will not be available for the general public to view on a Court’s website, and the applicant is not required to disclose the previous conviction on any future job application or to any future employer. The law in Ohio provides that, subject to several specific and limited purposes, only persons including, but not limited to, law enforcement agencies, prosecuting attorneys and parole and probation officers may have access to an expunged criminal record.
As a former Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor in the Appellate Division, Scott A. Rubenstein was responsible for reviewing all felony expungement applications filed in the County. This experience has provided him with a comprehensive understanding of the expungement procedural regulations and eligibility requirements. Mr. Rubenstein now uses that training to help good people who have made mistakes in their lives, expunge criminal convictions from their record.
If you have been convicted of a criminal offense and would like to have it expunged from your record, do not hesitate to call The Law Offices of Scott A. Rubenstein at (513) 241-7460. He can evaluate your case and advise you of your legal options.