SEALING A CRIMINAL RECORD: WHEN IS POSSIBLE?
July 1, 2016
In a competitive job market, having a criminal record can really be a road block. After all, this is the era of the online background check.
A record can not only keep you from being offered a job you were pursuing, even if you were otherwise the most qualified candidate. It can also result in losing out on an apartment you hoped to rent or keep you from getting approved for a home loan.
Is it possible to expunge or seal your record so that it doesn't keep holding you back? In this post, we will use a Q & A format to discuss that.
Are expungement and record sealing the same thing?
In Ohio, the answer is yes. Expungement is a court procedure by which references to past convictions are removed from your criminal record.
It means that you can truthfully answer "yes" when asked whether you have a conviction on your record.
Is the record deleted entirely from the databases it is in?
No. The word "expungment" comes from the Latin word for erase, but even a sealed record isn't entirely erased.
Your record can still be accessed by law enforcement and by other government agencies, even when it is sealed. Prosecutors can also gain access.
And if you are convicted of another crime, your previous record can be used to enhance the sentence for the new conviction.
Is expungement available for all types of crimes?
No. Under Ohio law, there are certain categories that are not eligible for expungement. Many of these are sex offenses or violent crimes.
What if you went to prison? Does that prevent you from being eligible for an expungement?
It depends on whether the conviction that sent you to prison was a mandatory prison sentence. If you were eligible for probation, you can seek an expungment - even if the judge sentenced you to prison rather than probation.
How much time must have passed before you can seek an expungement?
For misdemeanors, at least one year must have passed since "final discharge" of your sentence. For felonies, it's at least three years. "Final discharge" is a technical term that essentially means the doing your jail time or completing your time on probation. But discharge can also involve paying fines or restitution.
What if you were charged but not convicted?
If you were charged with a crime but not convicted, having your record sealed is still important. This is because prospective employers tend to not do very well in making the distinction between a charge and a conviction.
How do you get started in seeking an expungement?
There are many details that have attended to in order to apply successfully to the courts for an expungement. An attorney knowledgeable in this area of the law can guide you in moving forward.