A criminal record can make finding employment, obtaining housing, enrolling in and funding your education, and securing other opportunities very difficult. The good news is that there are options for you to move forward, even if you have made mistakes in the past. From sealing or expunging your criminal record to getting certificates which open doors for you to enroll in job training programs, the Office of the Hamilton County Public Defender is pleased to help you with your Fresh Start!
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Expunge Criminal Record
Ohio now offers the option to have criminal convictions expunged. Pursuant to R.C.2953.31(B)(2)(b), “expunged” means “to destroy, delete, and erase a record as appropriate for the record’s physical or electronic form or characteristics so that the record is permanently irretrievable.” The only entity permitted to retain an expunged record is the bureau of criminal identification and investigation, but only “for the limited purpose of determining an individual’s qualification or disqualification for employment in law enforcement.” R.C.2953.32(D)(5).
Seal Criminal Records
Sealing a criminal record means the electronic and paper records of the criminal charges are filed in a separate, secure location. In most cases, sealed records will not appear on criminal background checks. While the record will still exist, it cannot be seen by most people. Most employers and landlords are not allowed to access sealed records from a government source, such as the clerk of courts, the police or the state Bureau of Identification and Investigation. However, certain types of employers, officials, and government agencies are allowed by law to see sealed records. For example, prosecutors, judges and police, along with employers in law enforcement and those involving children or the elderly may access a sealed record. State licensing agencies, such as the State Medical Board or Dental Board, may review sealed records for the purposes of license denial, suspension, or revocation.
Eligibility for Sealing
Eligibility for the sealing of an adult criminal record is limited in several respects, including the type and nature of the offense, whether the charge resulted in a conviction and how much time has passed since the case concluded. To determine whether you are eligible to have your record sealed, and/or expunged, you must first know what is on your criminal record. In Hamilton County, you must obtain a copy of your record from the Sheriff’s Office, located at the Hamilton County Justice Center, 1000 Sycamore Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. There is a charge of $5.00 cash. You may view your record on the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts website at www.courtclerk.org.; however, your record from the Sheriff’s Office will be more accurate. Therefore, PLEASE BRING a copy of your record when you attend the Fresh Start Clinic; it will also have a history of any convictions from suburban Mayors’ Courts or Municipal Courts. If you have convictions out-of-county or out-of state, you will need to obtain a copy from those locations.
Sealing and Expunging Adult Criminal Records: Convictions
Step 1: Are your offenses eligible or do you have a prohibited offense?
Under Ohio Law, certain types of convictions can never be sealed. Generally speaking, and with a number of exceptions, the following types of offenses are ineligible:
- First or second degree felony offenses or of more than 2 felonies of the third degree;
- Any offense where the victim was under 13 years old (except for non-support of dependents);
- Any felony offense of violence (as defined by Ohio Revised Code 2901.01(A)(9));
- Any sexual-related offenses, if you are still under a duty to register as a sex offender;
- Any domestic violence offense or violation of a protection order offense; and
- All traffic convictions under R.C. Chapters 4506.,4507., 4511.,or 4549. (Traffic dismissals are eligible to be sealed)
Step 2: Are any other criminal charges pending against you?
The court will not seal or expunge your record if you have any criminal charges pending against you at this time. You must wait until you have completely dealt with any pending charges. This includes traffic cases or cases in Mayor’s courts, Out-of-County, and Out-of-State.
Step 3: How many years has it been since you completed your sentence?
There are waiting periods for each conviction. How much time has passed since final discharge on case?
6 months for sealing or expungement
1 year for sealing or expungements
Fourth or Fifth degree felonies
1 year for sealing.
11 years for expungements
Third degree felonies
3 years for sealing
13 years for expungements
2 years for sealing
Dismissals or Acquittals
No waiting period for sealing
R.C.2921.43 – Soliciting Improper Compensation
7 years after final discharge
Sex offenses where person is required to register as a sex offender
5 years after duty to register has been terminated
Sealing Adult Criminal Records: Non-Convictions
Step 1: How many non-convictions do you have?
Criminal charges which were dismissed or resulted in a verdict of not guilty are generally eligible to be sealed, no matter how many you have. However, if you were convicted on one or more charges that arose out of the same incident while other charges were dismissed, you CANNOT get the dismissed charges sealed unless you are also eligible to get the convictions sealed as well (see the earlier rules for sealing convictions).
Step 2: How long must you wait after the non-conviction?
Where the non-conviction is a misdemeanor and for most non-convictions of felonies, there is no waiting period to apply for sealing. However, in the case of a felony charge which was ignored by the grand jury (also called a “No Bill”), an applicant must wait two years to apply. Just like the sealing of a conviction record, a court will not seal a non-conviction record while the applicant has other pending charges.
Sealing and Expunging Juvenile Criminal Records
Juvenile records are not criminal records; and juveniles do not receive criminal convictions. Instead, juveniles who break the law are referred to as “adjudicated delinquents.” In fact, when a person with only a juvenile record is asked whether he/she has been convicted of a crime, the legally correct answer is “No.”
However, some types of offenses will appear on background checks; and juvenile records are available to certain employers and government agencies, including the courts, police and prosecutors. If you have been adjudicated a delinquent, there are two options: sealing and expungement. Sealed juvenile records are removed from the person‘s main criminal history file and secured in a separate file accessible only to police, courts and prosecutors. These records will not appear on any background checks for employment or housing. An expunged juvenile record is totally destroyed, in physical and electronic forms, so that the record is permanently irretrievable.
Sealing Juvenile Records
Step 1: How many adjudications do you have?
You may apply to have your juvenile record sealed even if you have several adjudications.
Step 2: Do you have a prohibited offense?
Under Ohio law, certain types of adjudications can never be sealed. The following types of offenses are ineligible:
- Aggravated murder
Step 3: Are any other criminal charges pending against you?
The court will not seal your record if you have any criminal charges pending against you at this time. You must wait until you have completely dealt with any pending charges.
Step 4: How long has it been since then end of your disposition?
A person may apply to seal a juvenile record 6 months after the final discharge of the offense. All fees and fines must be paid before the court will consider a request to seal a juvenile record. In deciding whether to seal a juvenile record, the court will consider the applicant’s age at the time of the offense, the nature of the offense, additional problems with the law, and a number of other factors.
Expunging Juvenile Records
A person may apply to have a juvenile record expunged at any time once it has been sealed. If a person does not apply for expungement after sealing a juvenile record, expungement will automatically occur five years after the record was sealed or when the person is 23 years old (whichever happens first). However, this automatic expungement will never occur if the record has not first been sealed.