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Can a sealed conviction be used to enhance a subsequent charge?

Under Ohio law a sealed conviction can be used to enhance a subsequent charge. Even after a conviction has been sealed Ohio law permits disclosure of it in certain instances. Ohio Revised Code § 2953.32(D)(1) allows for inspection of a record “[b]y a law enforcement officer or prosecutor, or the assistants of either, to determine whether the nature and character of the offense with which a person is to be charged would be affected by virtue of the person’s previously having been convicted of a crime.”

Obviously, there may be practical issues that arise with respect to whether the prosecutor or law enforcement would be able to discover or know where to look to find the sealed conviction, but if they are able to discover it then it is able to be used against the Defendant. 

The most likely scenario where this could present itself is if a defendant is convicted of a fourth-degree misdemeanor for domestic violence and then has that record sealed. If that defendant is then charged in the same court with another domestic violence charge then the prosecutor, knowing about the previous charge, would likely be able to discover and then use the previous conviction to enhance the domestic violence charge to a higher level offense. 

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