Ohio Expungement Law Changes Today: Are You Eligible?

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Ohio Senate Bill 337 takes effect today, September 28, 2012. But who has time to read all of that? And doesn’t the legislature like to use legalese and make their statutes confusing to most people? The Law Office of Brian Jones is here to tell you what you need to know about this change in the law. In short, if you weren’t eligible for expungement or sealing of records before, you might be eligible now.
Under previous expungement law in Ohio, only “first offenders” were eligible to have their records sealed. In other words, if you had been convicted of a crime on more than one occasion you probably weren’t eligible. We usually call this the “one bite of the apple” rule.

Now, people with multiple convictions can get their past offenses expunged so long as they are an “eligible offender.” What does that mean? Under the new law, an “eligible offender” is someone 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.”

So let’s break that down and then compare it to the old law. The new law means that the following sets of charges are now eligible for sealing or expungement:

  • One (1) felony conviction or less
  • Two (2) separate misdemeanor convictions if not the same offense; or
  • No more than one (1) felony and one (1) misdemeanor

For example, if you were convicted of Fifth Degree Felony Theft in 2003, you are now eligible for expungement. If you were charged with First Degree Misdemeanor Theft in 2003, and then Drug Paraphernalia in 2007, both charges are now eligible for expungement. And if you were convicted of Fifth Degree Felony Theft in 2003, and then Drug Paraphernalia in 2007, both charges are now eligible for expungement. This means that a lot of people who weren’t eligible for expungement are now able to apply.

It is important to remember though that not all crimes can be expunged. A DUI for example, will be on your record forever and will still prevent any other conviction from being expunged too. In fact, the law still says that even if another charge was dismissed when you were convicted of DUI, the dismissal can only be expunged if happened separately from the DUI. Other examples of unexpungeable offenses include Driving Under Suspension, sex offenses such as Rape or Gross Sexual Imposition, and many offenses of violence.

It is also important to remember that the old time limits for expungements still apply. For misdemeanors, this means you are eligible for sealing or expungement one (1) year after the case is finished. For felonies, this means you are eligible for sealing or expungement three (3) years after the case is finished. Under Ohio law, a case is finished when the fines and/or costs are paid, restitution is paid, or you’ve been discharged from probation.

Expungement and sealing of records is an important tool that can be used to protect your reputation, help your job search, or prevent nosy neighbors from finding out about past indiscretions after you’ve paid your debt to society. Past convictions are usually readily available via a public records search on the county’s municipal, common pleas, or mayor’s court docket. This means that your past mistakes can be seen by anyone with an internet connection. Sealing or expunging these records will prevent employers from seeing the convictions. And disseminating records related to an expunged offense is a crime in an of itself.

But you shouldn’t try to get an expungement or seal your records on your own. Expungement isn’t a right; it’s up to the court’s discretion as to whether an application for expungement is granted. Also, the prosecutor and probation department has a right to respond and even oppose your request for expungement. You need quality, effective legal representation to have the best chance of expunging or sealing your record. And The Law Office of Brian Jones is here to help.

The Law Office of Brian Jones will help you determine whether:

  • You’re an “eligible offender” under the new law
  • The crimes you’ve been convicted of are able to be expunged
  • Enough time has elapsed since the end of your case

Call The Law Office of Brian Jones today for a consultation and we will help you determine whether you can benefit from this new change in Ohio’s expungement law. We can handle expungement applications all over Ohio, so call today!

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