We all have seen the scenario play out—you committed a crime a long time ago, or you have committed a crime, and now you are looking for a potential job. Will my potential employer see my criminal record? I have done your best to forget about the crime; however my record is a constant reminder. Is there anything I can do?
Sealing vs. Expungement
The main difference between sealing a record and expunging a record is your age when the crime occurred. While juvenile records are "expunged" or erased, adult records are "sealed," and not erased, but only hidden. Take this for example: your criminal record is an envelope. Expunging (for juveniles) the record is like making the envelope disappear, never to come back again. However, sealing (for adults) the record is like putting a pad lock on the envelope so only those with the right code can see the record (judges, law enforcement, and specific employers such as schools, daycares, health care services, and a few other professional licensing boards). This may seem like bad news, however it is not—sealing a record can keep certain people (perhaps your potential employer) from knowing about your past criminal record.
It should be noted that ONLY criminal records can be sealed, not civil records such as divorces, CPOs, or evictions.
How to See Your Criminal Record
In Ohio, you can go online and check your criminal record for a fee around $35. Go to http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Services/Business/WebCheck/Webcheck-Community-Listing.aspx and check out your record.
Sealing Records Process
- You have to have committed a crime, had a non-conviction, or an arrest,
- Fill out the proper court forms for each court case you want to seal,
- A hearing will be scheduled by the court,
- Probation will conduct a background check on you,
- The State (Prosecutor) will have the opportunity to object,
- The hearing will actually take place (you should attend)
- Judge will issue an order on the motion to seal.
Who is eligible to seal their record?
First, you must meet the definition having an "eligible offense." The State of Ohio sees an "eligible offense" as certain felonies* (see below), misdemeanors, and some of the more serious traffic offenses such as OVI. Minor misdemeanors (MM's) and minor traffic violations (speeding, fender-benders, parking ticket, etc.) are not counted as convictions for sealing purposes.
Second, you have to meet the definition of an "eligible offender." In Ohio, you must have one of the following convictions in order to qualify:
- Only one felony conviction, or
- Only one misdemeanor conviction, or
- Only two misdemeanor convictions, or
- Only one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction.
Note: there are two exceptions when multiple convictions can be counted as one conviction. So if you have two or more convictions, make sure to check below—you may be able to combine those convictions together for one sealing.
- Two or more convictions based on the same criminal act, or
- Two or three convictions not based on the same act, but committed within a 3-month period, are all related crimes, and are parts of the same court proceeding.
The following offenses cannot be sealed:
- 1st or 2nd degree felonies
- Offenses with mandatory prison terms
- Specific Offenses such as:
- Offenses of Violence
- Most sexual offenses
- Most offenses against children
- Domestic Violence (only M1 and above are prohibited)
- Serious Traffic Offenses (OVI, DUI, etc.)
These include dismissed charges, not guilty findings, cases that were "nulled," and cases where the grand jury returned a "no bill." Even though you were not convicted of a crime, the court's finding may still be on your criminal record. An employer might not look at what the finding was, but might only care that you have "something" on your record—even though you may have been found innocent or not guilty. Better to have it completely off your record than hope that the employer reads far enough to see that you were not convicted. Essentially, do not let your future employers read your life book by its cover!
Before You Can File
Before you file, you should know that you cannot have any cases that are pending, such as speeding tickets, or warrants out for your arrest. You must also have completed your entire sentence before filing for a motion to seal—including probation, parole, anger management, and paying all of fines and costs. Basically, your punishment needs to be completely served before you file to seal a record.
Sealing An Arrest
Unlike sealing a conviction, sealing an arrest is—most of the time—easier to accomplish and less of a hassle. Arrests that do not result in charges can sometimes be sealed by the arresting agency (Police or Sherriff's office), and the motions/pleadings do not need to be filed with the court. Your local law enforcement agency (local or county) would have more information on this process, and if sealing your arrest is possible. Ask The Meranda Law Firm, LTD to help.
Why It's Better to Have an Attorney
Sometimes, you can file your own motions to seal your criminal record. However, if the Prosecutor objects to your motion, or you have multiple and complex cases, it is far better to have an attorney on your side. The Meranda Law Firm, LTD can handle all of your sealing needs, and will work with you through each step of the process. We will give you the best legal guidance for your money, and will steer you in the right direction through the sealing procedure. Give us a call today!