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Quick Primer on the Sealing of Criminal Records

Ohio has recently expanded the eligibility for sealing one's criminal record. Ohio law now permits up to five low level felonies to be sealed so long as a defendant does not have anything more serious on his or her record. It also permits potentially unlimited misdemeanors to be sealed. Also, a Defendant is able to seal a misdemeanor conviction and some third-degree felonies when he or she has no more than one misdemeanor and one third degree felony conviction. Certain exceptions exist, however, whereby an individual with more than two convictions may still be eligible. For example, multiple charges that arose from the same incident (such as a defendant who is charged with trespass and disorderly conduct as part of the same course of conduct) would likely be viewed as one conviction for purposes of sealing. Also, minor misdemeanors, such as possession of drug or drug paraphernalia, do not count as a conviction for purposes of sealing.

As stated above, the new law permits the sealing of up to 5 low-level (fourth and fifth degree) nonviolent, non-sexual offenses. In this instance, the number of misdemeanors on an individual's record are not taken into consideration. This now opens the door for individuals to remove multiple low-level felony drug and theft convictions from their record.

In addition to a defendant meeting the eligibility requirements for sealing, the offense of conviction must also be one that is not excluded from sealing under Ohio law. Generally speaking, sexual offenses, crimes of violence, traffic offenses (including OVI), offenses with mandatory prison terms, and first and second-degree felonies are not able to be sealed. Even if an offense is not eligible to be sealed, it still counts towards a Defendant's overall number of convictions in determining eligibility-so a Defendant with two OVI's and one third-degree felony theft is not eligible to have the theft sealed (even though it is a sealable offense).

If the Defendant is eligible and the offense is one that can be sealed then the question becomes who long must one wait before he or she can apply? In Ohio, a defendant must wait one year after a misdemeanor and three years after a felony conviction before he or she can apply. This time period starts at the conclusion of the sentence, not the time of conviction. Thus, a defendant who receives six months of probation is not eligible to apply until one year after the termination of probation. Additionally, a defendant with multiple felonies must wait an even longer period of time (either four or five years) based on the number of prior convictions.

Finally, defendants should keep in mind that dismissed charges are eligible to be sealed immediately, regardless of one's prior number of convictions. Also, the rules and exceptions for juveniles vary greatly from those outlined above for adults. For any questions about sealing your record or to see if you are eligible please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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