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Can I Expunge Domestic Violence?

Any criminal conviction can result in some negative employment consequences. However, having a conviction for a violent crime on your record will substantially limit your career and educational opportunities. Luckily, Ohio law allows judges to expunge your record if you are an "Eligible Offender."

A common question we receive is whether domestic violence convictions are eligible for expungement. The answer is a classic lawyer response: it depends.

Generally speaking, there are two different types of domestic violence crimes in Ohio: (1) causing or attempting to cause harm to a family or household member, and (2) a threatening to cause harm to a family or household member. The first type (causing or attempting to cause harm) is the more serious crime of the two, and a conviction of this offense is not eligible for expungement.

Domestic violence convictions are "stackable" or "escalating" offenses. In other words, each domestic violence conviction after the first carries a more severe punishment and is a higher-level crime. That is why a harm-causing domestic violence offense is not eligible for expungement whereas a conviction for misdemeanor assault (which is also a first-degree misdemeanor and is considered a violent crime) is eligible for expungement. However, a conviction of the lower level offense of domestic violence (threat only) can be expunged if the offender is otherwise eligible.

So how do you know which one you were convicted of so that you know if you are eligible? The eligible domestic violence offense is commonly called "DVM4" because it's a fourth-degree misdemeanor. If you pled no contest, pled guilty, or were found guilty of a (first offense) domestic violence offense that carried a fine of up to $1000 and up to 180 days in jail, then that domestic violence offense is not eligible for expungement. If you can't remember the potential punishment or the judge's sentence, then the quick way to find out is if the court records say "M1" or "M4" for your conviction. "M1" is the type of domestic violence that is not eligible for expungement.

The next important question is: when can I expunge my conviction? That question is significantly easier to answer. A motion to expunge your record cannot be filed until at least one year after you have completed all the terms of the judge's sentence. So, if you were placed on probation, it's one year after you completed probation. If you were not placed on probation, it's one year from the date of your conviction, or one year from when you paid off your fines or completed any court ordered assessments/classes.

Final important question: will the judge grant your motion to expunge your record? That question cannot be answered without talking to the judge, the prosecutor, your probation officer, or anyone else related to the case. Once your lawyer files the motion to expunge your conviction, a hearing will be scheduled, and all parties involved will be allowed to offer input on whether your record should be expunged. As discussed above, domestic violence convictions are "stackable" offenses-even the DVM4 variety-so courts may be more hesitant to grant a motion to expunge for a domestic violence conviction than for other offenses. Domestic violence convictions can also come with other strings attached like "stay away orders" or protection orders that can slow down, or even stop, the expungement process.

In the end, talking with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is an important first step to understanding if you are eligible to have your record expunged and what the process will look like for you.

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