• Ohio’s New Expanded Expungement Law
  • January 18, 2013 | Author: Christopher R. McDowell
  • Law Firm: Dinsmore & Shohl LLP - Cincinnati Office
  • Ohio’s expungement laws have changed. The new law permits many more people the opportunity to have old convictions wiped away by expanding the types of convictions that may be sealed and also permitting persons with more than one conviction to seek expungement of their record.

    Under the former law, only persons who were considered “first offenders” were eligible to have their convictions expunged. In general, the old law defined “first offenders” as persons with only one conviction on their record. Minor misdemeanors and non-serious traffic offenses were not, and still are not, considered convictions for expungement purposes.

    The biggest amendment to the law changes the words “first offender” to “eligible offender.” An “eligible offender” is defined as 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.” Pursuant to the new law, a person can now have more than one conviction and still be eligible to have their record expunged. For example, under the old law, if someone had a shoplifting conviction from 1979 when they were 18 and received a new conviction in 2011 for an open flask violation, neither of the convictions could be expunged - now both can be expunged.

    A few years ago, the Ohio State Legislature added a provision to the law that prohibited anyone who committed a crime where the victim was under 18 years of age from having the record of that offense expunged. This change resulted in non-support convictions falling into the category of offenses for which expungement was not permitted. The new law changes this. Now, if a person applies for expungement of a non-support conviction, the court may direct the probation department to make inquiries concerning the applicant. If the applicant is current with his support obligations, the non-support conviction may be expunged.

    The process for obtaining an expungement remains the same. The eligible applicant must file a motion with the court where the conviction occurred. Normally, the probation department investigates the applicant to make sure there are no new charges pending, that the conviction is not for an offense that cannot be expunged, and that the applicant is otherwise eligible. If there is a problem, the prosecutor may object to the motion. In the end, the judge decides if the motion should be granted. If the applicant is legally eligible, there is a presumption that the motion should be granted. If the motion is granted, an order is sent to the Clerk of Court and other governmental agencies with information regarding the conviction or arrest requiring them to seal the documents from public view and restoring the applicant’s rights as if the conviction never occurred.