Posted September 20, 202210:40 am
By Dave O’Brien, The Chronicle-Telegram
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland on Monday [September 19] hosted the first of two informational events in Elyria this fall for people interested in learning how to seal their criminal or arrest records.
Attorneys Josh Rovenger and Lauren Gilbride from the Legal Aid Society gave a presentation at the Elyria Public Library's West River Branch on the paths Ohio law has to seal criminal records, including who is eligible and what steps need to be taken.
About 30 people, women and men alike of varying ages and races, attended Monday's session.
The Legal Aid Society and its volunteer attorneys will help those who meet financial eligibility requirements.
Fewer than one in five low-income Americans end up getting the legal assistance that they need, and one in three American adults has a criminal record, Rovenger said — a statistic backed up by the National Conference of State Legislatures and The Sentencing Project.
"Having even a minor criminal record, such as a misdemeanor or even an arrest without conviction, can create an array of lifelong barriers that stand in the way of successful re-entry," according to The Sentencing Project.
Approximately 600,000 people also are released from jail or prison each year, Rovenger said. And nearly half of all unemployed men in the U.S. have a criminal conviction, Science.org reported earlier this year.
Sealing a record is different than having a criminal conviction expunged, Rovenger said. Ohio law generally doesn't allow adult criminal convictions to be expunged or erased, but arrest and conviction records can be sealed so they don't have to be disclosed when applying for most jobs.
Sealing a record doesn't mean it goes away, but it is "hidden" from the public — though law enforcement agencies and judges still can see it, Rovenger said.
Convictions, arrests, dismissed charges and charges presented to the grand jury that don't result in an indictment can all be sealed if a person meets certain eligibility requirements and after a waiting period.
Convictions for first- or second-degree felonies, sex offenses and crimes of violence, convictions that resulted in mandatory prison time, traffic offenses, convictions where crimes involved juvenile victims and others such as theft in office can't be sealed — but many others can after a waiting period and a court hearing, Rovenger said.
Courts will consider all of a person's convictions including those at the state and federal level; whether or not they have completed jail or prison time and paid all their fines and fees; if there are still pending charges; and if the applicant can show "their interest in sealing the record is greater than the government's need to maintain it," he said.
Cases in which charges were dropped or dismissed by prosecutors are all eligible to be sealed, though it's best if there is no pending case. In that situation, there is no waiting period, Rovenger said.
Gilbride said the Ohio Legislature has expanded the laws on sealing records ever since 2012, so people with convictions even back in the 1980s who were told they weren't eligible should check with the Legal Aid Society to see if they are eligible now.
There is also the possibility that someone looking to seal a record can get a certificate of qualified employment or CQE.
The CQE can be granted by a court to help people remove barriers to getting a job, and "allows employers and licensing boards to hire or award professional licenses to people who were not legally allowed to do certain jobs under the old law," according to the Legal Aid Society.
It also protects potential employers from negligent hiring claims, according to the Legal Aid Society. For questions about filing a CQE in Lorain County, call the Common Pleas Clerk of Courts at (440) 329-5536.
Those who attended Monday's event were automatically registered for a second event on Oct. 27. At that event, also at the West River Branch, volunteer attorneys will provide free one-on-one assistance, explain the steps and help fill out paperwork for those who qualify to have their records sealed.
For more information, questions or to make an appointment, call (888) 817-3777 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.
Spanish interpretation and translation services are available.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland serves people in Lorain, Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake counties and has partner agencies in other Ohio counties.
For those with communication limitations, call (800) 750-0750.
- There will be an event at El Centro, 2800 Pearl Ave., Lorain, from 2-3:30 p.m. Oct. 25. Appointments are "strongly encouraged" and can be made by calling (440) 277-8235.
- Another event will be held at Oberlin Community Services, 285 S. Professor St. in Oberlin, from 2-3:30 p.m. Oct. 11, Nov. 8 and Dec. 13. To make an appointment, call (440) 774-6579.
For questions about tenants' rights and rental housing, call (440) 210-4533 or (216) 861-5955.
For questions about workers' rights, employment law, benefits and unemployment, call (440) 210-4532 or (216) 861-5899.
The Legal Aid Society also helps with immigration and naturalization questions.
Original story can be found on The Chronicle-Telegram: Legal Aid Society helping Lorain County residents seal criminal, arrest records