How to Seal Your Criminal Record in Ohio
- Criminal Defense
The process for sealing criminal and arrest records in Columbus Ohio includes multiple steps and is punctuated by a hearing before a judge. Still, fighting through all the obstacles can make it much easier to pursue a rewarding career, secure loans, and take advantage of educational opportunities.
As you review the steps, keep in mind that you can seek advice and assistance from a Columbus criminal defense lawyer at any point. Speaking with a lawyer when you first decide to try to have your criminal record sealed can be especially helpful because omitting essential information from the application you submit to the court clerk or the procedure you use may result in an automatic rejection.
Colin Maher of The Maher Law Firm welcomes the opportunity to help people seal their records. You can speak to a Columbus criminal defense attorney now by calling (614) 205-2208 or completing this online contact form.
Step 1. Know What Records You Can Ask to Have Sealed
Ohio allows residents of the state to seal police and court records related to two misdemeanors or one misdemeanor and one felony. That legal right does not extend to all types of offenses, however.
Ohio law does not allow the sealing of most records related to traffic tickets (unless the charges were dismissed), drunk or drugged driving convictions, or convictions for sex crimes against minors, violent crimes like rape and aggravated assault, or the highest-level felonies. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney in Columbus will help clarify which records you can ask to have sealed.
Step 2. Recognize When You Can Submit an Application to Have Records Sealed
Your particular situation determines this.
If you have been convicted, you cannot have the records related to that offense sealed until you can show all of the following:
- You have completed the jail or prison sentence,
- You have paid all the fines and court costs,
- You have paid all the restitution you were ordered to pay, and
- You are no longer on probation or parole
If you were arrested but never charged, the police department or sheriff’s office will have its own timeline and procedures for sealing records. Your Columbus criminal defense lawyer will be able to confirm all of those details for you.
If you were arrested and initially charged but not indicted by a grand jury, you must wait a certain amount of time from the date on which the grand jury returned its finding of “no bill” to apply to have the records sealed.
Last, if you were indicted and went to trial only to have all the charges dismissed or to be found not guilty on any charges, you can apply to have the records sealed immediately.
Step 3. Fill Out and Submit an Application to Your County Clerk
Check with the court clerk’s office before doing any paperwork. You may need to use a specific type of application form depending on which records you want to have sealed.
Note, too, that the court charges a $50 application fee. You can request to have that fee waived or reduced if you can show that paying it would impose a financial hardship.
Step 4. Prepare for a Potential Interview With the Probation Office and a Hearing Before a Judge
An official from the probation office will confirm all the information on your application and may ask additional questions to make sure you are eligible to have the records you named sealed. That official will then write a report indicating whether or not they feel you qualify for sealing the records and that the charge(s) are capable of being sealed under Ohio law.
The court will then schedule a hearing. During that hearing, the judge will, again, confirm the information on your application and, likely ask how you think having your records sealed will benefit you. You can have your Columbus criminal defense attorney represent you during this hearing.
Step 5. Understand That ‘Sealed’ Does Not Mean ‘Erased’
Sealed criminal and arrest records will remain available by request to police, prosecutors, judges, and employers who do background checks for jobs that require working with children or elderly individuals. Professional licensing groups, like those for health care providers may also be able to view these records even though they are sealed.