Expungement – Sealing of Record – Ohio’s New Law effective Oct. 29, 2018

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.

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 you conviction are removed from the court records and 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 MUCH more generous and allows the sealing of up to Five (5) felonies of the 4th and 5th degree, and unlimited misdemeanor convictions. The old law only allowed an expungement of only two convictions and no more. The current statute allows the expungement to be granted for a person who has, "...not more than five felony convictions" and there is no stated limit on misdemeanors.

Offenses of violence, sex offenses, and traffic cases like OVI/DUI, any Ohio 6 point traffic offenses, 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree felonies cannot be expunged.

In Ohio the following time limits to file the expungement apply:
One (1) year after the misdemeanor case has been terminated
Three (3) after 1 felony has been terminated
Four (4) years after the termination of 2 felonies
Five (5) years after the termination of 3, 4, or 5 felonies.

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, it is not guaranteed.

There is one problem that still remains. 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, book in photos and convictions. Many businesses use these services for background checks. The law does not currently have any effect on these services. Thus, even thought you may have had your record sealed by the court, the data base company is not required to seal anything. They 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 you may have to pay a fee. Hopefully, Ohio will amend the statute to prevent the reporting of expunged convictions by these data base services, but no legislative action appears to be on the horizon.