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Ohio Court Records

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Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Ohio

Opportunities such as employment, admission, scholarship, or housing may not be readily available to individuals with open criminal records. In Ohio, a criminal record becomes public after conviction indefinitely. Sealing and expunging such documents may be the only way to prevent them from public view. The Ohio Revised Code Section 2953.31 grants 'eligible offenders' the right to seal their criminal records.

Typically, only ex-convicts with less than five felonies are described as eligible. Examples of records that can be sealed are arrest reports, old juvenile convictions, DUI convictions, street racing, and other traffic violations. Section 2953.36 lists some violent crimes and convictions related to minors that are not eligible for expungement. This includes rape, sexual battery, pornography involving a minor, etc.

The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records

Generally, sealing a criminal record means concealing it from the public, but it can be re-opened through a court order. Expungement means total removal or destruction of the file. However, the Ohio Revised Code only makes provision for sealing of records. Hence, record sealing and expungement mean the same thing in Ohio. The only alternative to record sealing is to file for a CQE (Certificate of Qualification for Employment). Although the certificate cannot expunge or seal a record, it can be used to seek relief for felony convictions. An individual seeking to file a CQE petition must have completed a one year waiting period after sentence.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How to Seal a Criminal Record in Ohio

As stated earlier, record sealing in the state of Ohio is available to eligible offenders who:

  • were indicted but not convicted
  • have less than five or five felony offenses in their rap sheet
  • have no pending criminal accusations to answer.
  • have completed their waiting period requirements since the day of their conviction and sentence. For misdemeanors, individuals must wait for at least one year. Offenders with one, two, or more felonies must wait for three, four, and five years respectively to apply.

Based on these requirements, individuals should find the Ohio court where the conviction took place. Approach the court clerk to obtain a copy of their rap sheet and application form for record sealing.

After completing the application form with the help of a legal counsel, the applicant is expected to file a motion for sealing the conviction record. Filing to seal a non-conviction or dismissed case is free, but it costs $50 to seal a felony or misdemeanor. However, the offender may ask the court clerk for a poverty affidavit if they are unable to pay.

Afterward, the court staff or probation department is tasked with investigating whether the offender is eligible. Mail notification regarding the hearing date will be sent to the offender and prosecutor. Before the hearing, prosecutors may object to the offender's motion via a written memorandum filed with the sentencing court. Hence, it is always better to hire an expert attorney for this purpose.

The judge at the sentencing court makes the final decision on granting or rejecting a record sealing motion. The decision will be influenced by the evidence and arguments presented at the hearing. An Order of Expungement and Sealing of Record will be signed by the judge to show that the motion is granted. The order will be sent to approved agencies in charge of the record, mandating them to seal the records.

What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Ohio

In most instances, sealing a record is used together with expungement. However, the state of Ohio makes provision for the complete removal of some minor crimes. According to ORC Section 2953.38, crimes relating to victims of human trafficking can be erased. Other related offenses that can be expunged include:

  • Solicitation after an HIV test
  • Loitering to solicit
  • Prostitution under HIV test
  • Convictions relating to firearms

How to Expunge Criminal Records in Ohio

In Ohio, the process of applying for criminal record expungement is similar to that of record sealing. Applicants should get their rap sheets and expungement form at the clerk of courts' office where the conviction occurred. After completing the forms, applicants may file a motion for expungement to the court. The court sets the hearing date, where the proposal will be granted or rejected. If granted, the court clerk will notify the record custodians who will eventually destroy the records.

Do Sealed Records Show up in Ohio Background Checks?

No. Once the order of expungement or record sealing has been signed; the conviction will be missing on the rap sheet. According to the restoration of rights statute in Ohio, the sealed offense will be treated as if it never occurred. Hence, the online and paper forms of the records will be filed in a unique but secured place. Nonetheless, the records are still in existence but concealed from the public.

Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in Ohio

Usually, law enforcement agencies are allowed access to sealed records. The records will help those agencies in future investigations. Other times, sealed records are used as a reference for future sentences. ORC Section 2953.32d lists all the approved agencies and persons that can have access to sealed records. These include:

  • Record holder
  • Prosecutors
  • Judges
  • Police
  • Employers in law enforcement agencies
  • Employers working with kids i.e. schools, daycares, and health-care services
  • Employers in real estate
  • Employers in a financial institution
  • Professional bodies such as the State Medical Board, State Board of Psychology, State Dental Board, State Accountancy Board, State Board of Nursing,

How to Obtain Sealed Records in Ohio

The BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) in Ohio maintains a record of all sealed criminal records. While the record holder and approved governmental agencies can obtain these records, private individuals must get a court order before gaining access to the records. The record holder can obtain a copy of the sealed document by submitting personal information and fingerprints to the following BCI&I locations:

BCI London
1560 State Route 56 SW
London, Ohio 43140

BCI Bowling Green
750 North College Drive
Bowling Green, Ohio 43402

BCI Youngstown
20 W. Federal Street
Youngstown, Ohio 44503

BCI Richfield
4055 Highlander Parkway
Richfield, Ohio 44286

Note that each request costs $22, which can be paid via money order, business check, or electronic payment to the "Treasurer of the State of Ohio."

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