Expungement – Sealing of Record – Ohio’s New Law

By: Peter R. Certo, Jr. Attorney at Law. Ohio Super Lawyer, AV Preeminent (peer review rated), Ohio Super Lawyer, past two- term chair of the Dayton Bar Association Criminal Law Section, former Acting Dayton Municipal Court Judge, former prosecutor.

Expungement and a Sealing of the Record are synonymous. The common term is Expungement but the statute says Sealing of the Record. Ohio's expungement statute is found in ORC 2953.31. The ultimate effect is that the physical file and any references to your conviction are removed from the court records and the records of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), in addition, you are entitled by law to answer "NO" if anyone asks if you have a conviction. Thus, if anyone checks the court or BCI records, they will not find any record of you conviction.

The statute was amended and is now more generous and allows the sealing of two convictions. The old law only allowed an expungement of one conviction. The current statute allows the expungement to be granted for a person who has, "...not more than one felony conviction, not more than two misdemeanor convictions if the convictions are not of the same offense, or not more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction in this state or any other jurisdiction.

On the other hand, Ohio has made expungement somewhat more difficult by limiting what kinds of convictions can be expunged, such as offenses of violence, and by adding traffic cases, like OVI/DUI, to the list of offenses which are not eligible for an expungement.

In Ohio you can apply to have a misdemeanor conviction expunged one year after the case has been terminated and a felony three years after termination. Once you apply the court does a background check. If it appears you are qualified the court may then grant the petition. Note that the court has discretion to approve or reject the petition, so that there is no guarante that it will be granted.

Expunged convictions can still cause you problems because the statute has not kept up with the development of the internet. There are plenty of data base gathering services that will scour court records and "capture" criminal filings, bookings photos and convictions. Many businesses use these services for background checks. The law does not currently have any effect on these services. Thus, even though you may have had your record sealed by the court, the data base company is not required to seal anything. These private companies can still report your conviction or post your "book- in" photo years after the expungement. Some websites allow you to petition to have your information removed from the site, but require payment of a fee, which may be substantial. Hopefully, the Ohio legislature will eventually amend the statute to prohibit the reporting of expunged convictions by such data-gathering services. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any such legislative initiative under way at this time.