Attorney Matthew C. Bangerter North Eastern Ohio

What Exactly Is An Expungement?


I would first like to clarify that sealing a record and expungement are two different things. Both expungement and sealing make the person’s record invisible. Sealing a record places the record under seal, so that although most people will not be able to see it, the record still exists. What exactly is an expungement? Expungement actually physically destroys the record, so it no longer exists at all. In Ohio, people tend to call the process “expungement,” but in most cases, the person is applying to get a record sealed rather than expunged.

Expungement is rare, but it can be used in certain instances. For example, if a victim of human trafficking was charged with a crime as a result of that human trafficking, then that person can get their record expunged. Most people just end up having their record sealed. In that case, even though the record is sealed to most people, some agencies are always able to access a sealed record. It will still be available to most state professional licensing boards, employers for jobs working with children, Immigration and a few others. Those agencies will always be able to see that conviction.

How Does A Pardon Differ From Having The Record Sealed Or Expunged?

A pardon restores the civil rights the person might have lost when they were convicted of a crime and absolves the person of any legal consequences. Their right to vote, to serve on a jury, and their right to hold political office are all restored. It does not erase the records, so the record still exists. For example, any money or fines or restitution owed to someone are not forgiven because a person received a pardon. The pardon simply restores any rights they lost because of that conviction.

What Are The Long Term Benefits Of Sealing And Expunction?

First of all, it helps the person find a job. A lot of employers now run background checks and in todays competitive market the candidate may not get that job if there is a conviction on their record. If the record was sealed and the employer cannot see it, then there is far more opportunity for the person to move on with their life and get a good job.

Things, like going to school, educational opportunities or being in line for a promotion, could all be affected by the person having a conviction on their record. Sealing that conviction can alleviate that problem. It can also help protect the person’s general reputation if somebody from their family, friends or their neighborhood started to look at the court’s website, they would no longer be able to see the person’s record on that court’s website.

Who Is Be Eligible To File For An Expungement Or To Have A Record Sealed?

First, the offense itself must be sealable. First and second degree felonies and some other crimes are not. A person can have one felony and one misdemeanor sealed, two misdemeanors sealed, or any number of minor misdemeanors. In some cases, charges that occurred close in time may be considered as one single case.

A person applying to get a misdemeanor sealed must wait a year after the conclusion of any court involvement, meaning all fines have been paid, all community service completed, the person is off probation and there are no other cases pending in any other court for a year. For felonies, the waiting period is three years.

What Types Of Criminal Records Cannot Be Expunged?

First and second degree felonies cannot be sealed. Any crime with a mandatory prison sentence cannot be sealed. Crimes of violence cannot be sealed, with the exception of misdemeanor assault. Domestic violence, sex crimes, any crime with a child victim, OVIs and traffic cases are all ineligible for sealing. An OVI/DUI will be on a person’s record for life.

Does Expungement Apply To Just Convictions Or Arrests As Well?

If the person was never actually convicted, if they were arrested and charged but then found not guilty or their case was dismissed, the record of that arrest and charge can also be sealed. In that case, there is no waiting period, the person can apply immediately. There is no limit to the number of these that can be sealed, although it is ultimately up to the court to decide whether to grant the request.

What Is OVI?

OVI is Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated. Most people refer to them as DUI, Ohio just names them differently.

Visit our office for more information on what expungement is, or how sealing and pardons work, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (440) 409-7898 today.

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