Expunction is the deletion of a criminal record, as if the event never occurred. Sealing a record prevents the public from viewing the record or even discovering the record, but it still exists. Ohio law currently does not provide a process to expunge a criminal record, rather they have a process for sealing a conviction.

Are there any Criminal Convictions that Do Not Qualify for Sealing or Expungement of a Record?

Yes. There are several crimes that cannot be expunged or sealed from public record. Most involve the first or second degree of a crime and violent offenses. Many involve crimes committed against minors.

Others include sex-based offenses and minor traffic offenses. Crimes in which you were required to serve a mandatory jail term are not eligible for sealing. If you were eligible for probation, you may be able to seal that conviction.

Is there a Limit to the Number of Convictions that Can Be Sealed in Ohio?

Yes. Ohio’s sealing of criminal convictions statute mostly pertains to first time offenders. An important exception to this rule is when multiple convictions resulted from one criminal act in which the offender received two or more convictions based on the same incident.

Depending on the facts of such a situation, the offender may be eligible to seal all related convictions. Typically, only one conviction can be sealed in Ohio.

When Can I Apply for My Criminal Conviction in Ohio to be Sealed?

Depending on whether the Ohio conviction is for a felony crime or a misdemeanor crime, the time to request is different. An eligible offender convicted of a felony may file a request to seal the conviction information of a case three (3) years after being finally discharged.

For misdemeanor convictions, it is one (1) year after final discharge. You may not have any pending criminal cases at the time you apply. If you do, you will need to wait until those are completed to file your request.

What Documents Do I Need in Order to Seal My Records in Ohio?

You need the following information or items to file an application to seal your record in Ohio:

  1. Get a copy of the final court order for your conviction known as a Judgement Order of Conviction
    1. If you did not save this from when you were convicted, you may be able to get a copy from the clerk of the court office located at the courthouse where the conviction occurred. 
    2. Ask for a certified copy. You may be required to pay a fee for this document.
  2. Complete the Application for Sealing of a Criminal Record and the Judgment Entry for Sealing. 
    1. You may be able to get these forms from the clerk of the court at the courthouse where you are applying.
  3. Make three copies of your application, judgement entry and the order of conviction. 
    1. Bring all three copies to the clerk of the court where your conviction occurred to file.
  4. Bring the filing fee to pay to file your application or if you are unable to pay you may be able to complete a poverty affidavit in lieu of payment. 
    1. You must pay the fee or get court approval of a poverty affidavit in order to file your application.

What Happens After I File My Application to Expunge or Seal My Records in Ohio?

After you file your request to seal your criminal conviction in Ohio, you can expect the following steps to occur:

  1. The court will set a hearing date and send you notice. 
    1. Make sure you watch for the hearing date in the mail or contact the clerk of the court to see if a date has been set. You must attend the hearing or risk your application being denied or dismissed.
  2. The court will notify the state prosecutor’s office of your request to seal.
  3. If the prosecutor wants to object to your request, meaning they do not want your conviction to be sealed, they must file a written request before the hearing date and include their reasons and justification for objecting.
  4. Upon a hearing, the court will take into consideration any objection by the state prosecutor as well as other factors in determining whether to grant the motion to seal. 
    1. The court is looking to weigh your need to have the conviction sealed against the public’s interest in having such information available including safety concerns. 
    2. Be prepared to argue why sealing the record is necessary and that it creates little to no harm to the public.
  5. If your request is granted, then you can get a copy of the order to seal the record.

If you make it to step five, then you have successfully had your Ohio criminal record sealed. Make sure to retain important documents from the process in case there is a mistake or misunderstanding in the future.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Seal My Criminal Conviction in Ohio?

An Ohio criminal lawyer can help you determine whether your conviction qualifies for sealing which can be difficult to determine in Ohio. A lawyer can also prepare the application and obtain the necessary documentation to submit the request.

A lawyer may be able to represent you at the hearing to improve your chances of success with sealing your record.