What do you need to know about Expungements in Cleveland?

What You Need to Know About Expungements and Sealing Your Record in Ohio

When you’re convicted of a crime in Ohio, it can haunt you long after you walk away from the criminal justice system. Unless you have your criminal record expunged or sealed, “felon” or “convicted criminal” becomes your permanent description.

People use it to define who you are. When employers, landlords, volunteer organizations, and anyone else sees it on an application, it gives them cause to reject you without further inquiry.

A criminal designation often keeps you locked into non-professional jobs and poor living conditions. It allows everyone to judge you without even hearing your story.

An Ohio expungement lawyer can provide relief. The expungement process requires the courts to seal your criminal history from public access. In certain situations, the court orders the destruction of your criminal records. It’s often a complicated process, but it can change your life and give you a second chance.

When you work with expungement attorneys at Botnick Law Firm in Ohio, you have a professional advocating on your behalf. We help you present a compelling case and increase your chances of a successful outcome. Call now for a FREE consultation.

How Do Expungements in Ohio Work?

Ohio Revised Code, Chapter 2953, Appeals; Other Post-Conviction Remedies, defines and describes the formal expungement process.

Under Ohio law, you may qualify to have your criminal record sealed or expunged.

  • Sealing of a criminal conviction record or bail forfeiture record, ORC 2953.32 When a court seals your records, it makes them inaccessible to public inquiries.
  • Expungement of certain convictions/crimes, ORC 2953.37 and ORC 2953.38 When a court expunges your criminal records, they destroy/eliminate them. Ohio expungement provisions provide relief for certain human trafficking victims’ crimes (ORC 2953.38) and certain firearms convictions (ORC 2953.37.)

However, your records may become unsealed in some cases, allowing certain law enforcement agencies to still access your records.

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Crimes Excluded From Expungement Consideration

Expungements in Ohio aren’t automatic. You must qualify for expungement or sealing and then apply to initiate the process.

Certain crimes and circumstances automatically eliminate you from consideration, such as:

  • Convictions involving first and second-degree felonies
  • Convictions for certain crimes of violence
  • Convictions subject to a mandatory prison term
  • Certain felonies or first-degree misdemeanors when the victim was under the age of 16
  • Convictions involving voyeurism, public indecency, compelling prostitution, and other crimes when the victim was under 18.
  • OVI/DUI charges and other traffic offenses

You Must Meet the Waiting Period Guidelines

You don’t qualify to have your expungement application heard until you pass the applicable waiting period.

Time frames vary depending on your conviction and your circumstances:

  • You may apply immediately if you were charged with a crime but not convicted.
  • You must wait two years if your case resulted in a grand jury “no bill.” 
  • You may apply one year after the court enters a misdemeanor crime bail forfeiture into the record.
  • You may apply one year after a final discharge of a misdemeanor.
  • You may apply three years after the final discharge of a felony conviction.
  • You may apply four years after final discharge if convicted of two felonies.
  • You may apply five years after the final discharge of three, four, or five felony convictions.

Expungements in Ohio Involve a Step-by-step Process

In Ohio, the expungement process is often tedious. It requires input from several criminal justice professionals. The court addresses each application individually. If you have several cases for which you request expungement/sealing consideration, the court can address them simultaneously.

Once you file your application, the court works through a multi-step process that addresses numerous issues:

  • Are you an eligible offender based on convictions, timing, etc.?
  • Do you have any outstanding fines or court costs from your case?
  • Do you have any current criminal proceedings pending?
  • Have you been “…rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court…”?
  • What are the benefits of sealing vs. maintaining your records?
  • Has the prosecutor filed any objections to your expungement? If so, why?

If the court chooses to proceed with your application, they will investigate you and your current circumstances. State and county probation officers conduct an investigation and make inquiries about you.

If your conviction involved a non-support of dependents crime, under ORC 2919.21, a probation officer reviews your current compliance. They contact the appropriate child support enforcement agency to determine if you meet your payment obligations.

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Why Apply for Expungements in Ohio?

When the court seals your criminal record, it opens doors systematically closed to people with criminal convictions. An expungement helps decrease the sabotaging effect of Ohio’s collateral sanctions. These are a series of Ohio laws and rules restricting a former criminal’s access to jobs, housing, and civil rights.

Wasted Assets,” a report by the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, explains how Ohio Revised Codes include 1,100 collateral sanctions. More than 250 of these sanctions restrict access to certain jobs. Six-hundred sanctions restrict licensing, contracting, and other professional designations.

Collateral sanctions perpetuate a perceived risk that effectively bars convicted criminals from one in four jobs in the state. Even when you are highly educated and qualified, legal restrictions can prevent you from better-paying jobs and careers.

Contact an Ohio Expungement Attorney

If you’re considering an expungement application, consult with an expungement attorney before you proceed. Expungements in Ohio are often complicated. You should never attempt to handle the process on your own. To maximize your potential for success and present your strongest case, you need a dedicated legal professional working on your behalf.

Cleveland, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney Near You

Were you convicted of a criminal offense? Do you need help understanding expungements in Ohio? If you are unsure of what to do next and need help navigating the complicated Ohio criminal laws, contact The Botnick Law Firm today for a free case evaluation.

Your future is at stake. Call us now to get the help you deserve. An experienced Ohio expungement lawyer can help get you through this. Contact us today for a FREE consultation.

Process step-by-step

  • 01.
    Initial Arrest

    01. Initial Arrest

    The process to charge someone that’s been accused of a crime begins with an arrest. If the police have reason to believe that someone has committed a crime, the accused can be taken into custody. Police will usually start by asking basic questions like name and address to identify a person, and then they’ll often pivot to more specific questions related to the incident. At some point during this, you should have been read your “Miranda warnings.”

  • 02.
    Reading Your Rights

    02. Reading Your Rights

    You have the right to remain silent to avoid disclosing evidence that could potentially be self-incriminating, as well as the right to an attorney to defend you in court. Those are your unwavering rights that must be recited upon taking someone into custody. Take note of when these rights are read to you, as it could be helpful information for your attorney.

  • 03.

    03. Booking

    When you’ve been taken down to the station, police will fingerprint you and get your photograph to update their records. Once this is done, you should be granted the opportunity to contact your criminal defense lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, get a loved one to book a consultation with a lawyer on your behalf. It’s important that you do NOT disclose any details about your case over the phone with your loved ones, as those calls are monitored.

  • 04.

    04. Investigation

    After you’ve made it through the booking process, the police may begin conducting their investigation with you. Depending on the situation, this might include a personal search, collecting samples, interviewing/interrogating, police lineups, etc.

  • 05.
    Court Appearance

    05. Court Appearance

    You’ll be held at the station until you can be brought before a judge. The initial court appearance will happen within 48 hours or less of the arrest. Here, the judge will review the case and decide if there’s any reason to keep you in holding or if bail can be granted. If bail is granted, you’re allowed to be released upon certain conditions.

  • 06.

    06. Hearing

    Depending on the seriousness of your allegations, you may have a preliminary hearing at which a judge can determine whether enough evidence exists to charge you with that level of crime. You’ll be able to plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” If you plead not guilty, your case will be sent to trial. You may get the opportunity to enter a plea deal. That’s something your attorney will advise you on.

  • 07.

    07. Discovery

    In the discovery stage, the case against you is made much more transparent. The prosecutor will share the evidence they have against you with your defense attorney. During this time, your attorney can make additional requests for evidence if need be. All of the evidence on the table will be considered, and your lawyer will work with you to form the best plan for your defense.

  • 08.

    08. Trial

    If a plea deal is unable to be reached, the case will enter trial. During the trial, the prosecutor begins by presenting the case to the jury. They share any evidence they have against you and have witnesses make their statements for the prosecution. This can be tough to sit through. Afterward, it’s your lawyer’s turn to take the stands and share your side of the story. Your lawyer can question the prosecutor’s witnesses and all of the evidence that was used against you. There are many different strategies that your lawyer will use to defend you during the trial.

  • 09.

    09. Sentencing

    In a best-case scenario, you will have been found not guilty by the end of the trial, and the charges against you have been dropped. If you are found guilty, the judge must determine what your sentence/penalties will be. The sentencing will happen at another hearing, usually a few weeks after your trial ends.

Ohio Felony Sentencing

Prison TIme
Maximum Fine
First Degree
3-11 years
Second Degree
2-8 years
Third Degree
9-36 or 12-60 months
Fourth Degree
6-8 months
Fifth Degree
6-12 months

Ohio Misdemeanor Sentencing

Jail Time
Maximum Fine
First Degree
Up to 180 days
Second Degree
Up to 90 days
Third Degree
Up to 60 days
Fourth Degree
Up to 30 days
Minor Misdemeanor

FAQ: Ohio Expungements

How long do you have to wait to get your record expunged in Ohio?

The general rule of thumb for expunging felony records in Ohio is that there must first be at least a three-year waiting period before the process can begin. The three years start after the final date of discharge.

What crimes cannot be expunged in Ohio?

While many crimes can be expunged from a person’s record in Ohio, there are certain crimes that, due to their nature, cannot be expunged. Some of these crimes include:

  • First or second-degree felonies
  • Violent crimes
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual crimes
  • Many crimes involving a minor

Can a dismissed case be sealed?

If your case was dismissed or found not guilty on all charges, you could apply to get your records sealed.

If you were arrested but never charged, can the police report be sealed?

If you were named in a police report, whether you were arrested or not, and no case was ever filed with the court, you can apply to get the police report sealed.

Ohio Courts System

We have successfully represented clients across Northern Ohio. If you are facing criminal charges, we can help you too. Don’t delay. The district attorney is building their case against you right now.

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