By Gerry Meader
A criminal conviction can keep you from getting the job you want. It can make it harder to find decent housing and to obtain government and other benefits. And it can follow you forever.
A new Ohio law that expands eligibility for expungements can help with these barriers. Even if you have many criminal convictions, or were previously “ineligible” to seal them, you might now be able to expunge some or all of them. The new law provides certain convictions can be expunged and others cannot.
Most misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions can now be expunged, but there are some important exceptions:
You CANNOT expunge the following convictions:
- Traffic and OVI/DUI offenses
- Felony crimes of violence
- Sex offenses while registration is required
- Crimes involving children under the age of 13 years (except failure to pay child support can be expunged / sealed regardless of age of child)
- 1st and 2nd degree felonies
- Three (3) or more 3rd degree felonies in a single case
- Convictions for domestic violence or violating a protection order
Before you are eligible to expunge a criminal conviction, you must wait a certain amount of time after completing your sentence. You have completed your sentence after you paid your fines, served your jail time, and completed any probation. Then, after that, you must wait six months (minor misdemeanor), 1 year (misdemeanor), 11 years (4th or 5th degree felonies), or 13 years (3rd degree felony, if eligible). You cannot expunge a record if you have any open criminal or traffic cases.
You may be able to seal your felony conviction before you are eligible for expungement. Expunging a record permanently erases it from all official databases as though it never existed. Sealing a record leaves it on file, but it can’t be seen by most employers and landlords. You may also be able to seal (but not expunge) records of non-convictions like dismissed cases, acquittals, and “no bills.”
If you need help expunging or sealing your records, contact The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland at 888.817.3777 or apply for help online.
This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 39, Issue 1, in May 2023. See full issue at this link: “The Alert”- Volume 39, Issue 1 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.