Once upon a time Ohio was one of the few States in the Country to prevent expungement of any kind. However, with expanded efforts in rehabilitation and improvements in the effectiveness of Ohio’s criminal justice system, new law was created to allow for Ohioans to distance themselves from mistakes that may have occurred in their past. Over the years the legal practice of expungement expanded within the law and became available to more and more rehabilitated offenders. This expansion of the practice of expungement has culminated into yet another change which went into effect this year. (October 29th, 2018)
Ohio is considered a Seal State, which means records of past criminal conduct are not deleted/destroyed per se. Instead court records are placed under Seal, which means that the records are removed from public access and only accessible under extremely limited circumstances. This allows only specific agencies to access the records and usually only at the request of the alleged Defendant in those cases. In certain lights, this practice could be considered a good thing, for example, if the alleged Defendant in a case needs to access the record for whatever reason they would still have the option in a Seal State.
Traditionally, the law allowed Sealing of only two convictions, 1 misdemeanor and 1 felony or 2 misdemeanors and this option was only available after a painfully long waiting period. Under the new law a Sealing of Record has become an option for many more past offenders who are attempting to move on from a possibly checkered past. The new law allows for expungement of an unlimited number of “Non-Violent” misdemeanors and up to 5 felonies, so long as they are classified as Felony 4 or Felony 5. As before a Sealing of Record is also available for any case involving a Non-Conviction. Misdemeanors have a waiting period of 1 year, while felonies have a tiered waiting period (based on the number of convictions) starting at 3 years for a single Felony 4 or Felony 5.
The provisions excluding sex offenses and crimes of violence are still on the books, for now, however the new law is absolutely a step in the right direction. Hopefully one day, the law can be expanded to give all rehabilitated offenders a second chance. In a world where Defendant’s are routinely given the short end of the stick, often given raw deals and unfair trials, this legislation is definitely a welcome shift. However, we here at Bleile & Dawson think big and imagine a world in which all rehabilitated offenders are offered the chance to distance themselves from convictions or accusations in their past.
Ultimately, while the new legislation has made Sealing of Records in Ohio available to more people, it is important to note that this only allows for the opportunity to be heard. An Eligible Offender or accused still has to argue the Sealing before a Judge within the county the offense occurred. The Judge will then make a ruling based on the argument for the Sealing. The success or failure of the Motion to Seal pivots entirely on the argument before the Judge at the hearing. It’s at this time no person eligible for Sealing will want to be without a competent and knowledgeable attorney.
The attorney’s at Bleile & Dawson are extremely knowledgeable in criminal law, especially when it comes to representing our clients regarding past convictions or accusations, whether in the State of Ohio or the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If you feel you have been wrongly accused of a crime and seek to find the best possible representation to fight for you, hire a law firm that puts the client first and fights hard to protect the client’s rights and reputation. Contact us today for a completely confidential consultation at 513-564-0088.