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Some states have separate legal proceedings for “expungement of records” and “sealing of records.” However, in Ohio, the legal process for expungement of records and sealing of criminal records occur at the same time. In other words, the term “expungement” and “sealing” are one and the same. It is a legal process provided under the Ohio Expungement Statute, which allows one to have any and all references to prior criminal records cleared and their court file sealed.
Franklin County is fortunate to have the Franklin County Municipal Court Self Help Resource Center, which helps with expungements.
Ohio Expungement Statute
O.R.C. Sec. 2953.31
"Eligible offender" means 5 or fewer felony convictions, none of which is higher than a fourth degree felony. Cannot be a felony sex offense of a crime of violence, except first degree misdemeanor assault, riot, inciting to violence or inducing panic.
Sealing of conviction record or bail forfeiture record. Application may be made at the expiration of three years after the offender's final discharge if convicted of a felony, four years if two felonies, five years if 3-5 felonies or at the expiration of one year after the offender's final discharge if convicted of a misdemeanor. Final discharge means after serving sentence, completing parole, paid all fines, paid all restitution. However, "sentence" does not include payment of court costs.
O.R.C. Sec. 2953.36 These crimes cannot be expunged.
First- or second-degree felonies cannot be expunged from the record. Violent crimes with first-degree misdemeanor or felony charges cannot be expunged, with the exception of first-degree misdemeanor convictions for inciting to violence (ORC 2917.01), assault (ORC 2903.13), riot (ORC 2917.03), or inducing panic (ORC 2917.31). Also
•Corruption of a Minor
•Gross Sexual Imposition
•Obscenity Involving a Minor
•Pornography Involving a Minor
•Illegal Use of a Minor in Pornography
•Felonious Sexual Penetration
Additionally, the Ohio Revised Code has been amended and passed over the years to preclude additional felony convictions and misdemeanor convictions, where there was a victim under the age of 18, including:
•Disseminating Matter Harmful to Juveniles
•Displaying Matter Harmful to Juveniles
•Deception to Obtain Matter harmful to Juveniles
(An exception to this rule is failure to pay child support which is now eligible for expungement. S.B 337 September 2012)
O.R.C. Sec. 2953.51
Sealing of records after not guilty or dismissal.
O.R.C. Sec. 2953.38
Human trafficking, record can actually be shredded, not just sealed.
Oh. Rev. Code Sec. 2923.16
Improper handing of a firearm. Individuals with convictions prior to Sept. 30, 2011 can apply for expungement and shredding of their record, if the conduct would no be a crime.
Where to Go for Free Legal Advice in Franklin County
Franklin County Municipal Court Self Help Resource Center
Help with expungement applications in Franklin County Municipal and Common Pleas Courts.Call the Franklin County Municipal Court Clerk's office at 614-645-7220 for more information.
Free Legal Clinic Calendar
Franklin County Law Library keeps an up to date list of free legal clinics, including expungement clinics, in Columbus, Ohio.
Legal Aid Society of Columbus - Pro Bono Clinics
Schedule of BRIEF ADVICE AND BRIEF SERVICE CLINICS, including clinics on Naturalization, Special Education Advice, Fresh Start (Expungement and CQE) and a yearly Tax Court Calendar Call.
Legal Referral Service from Columbus Bar Association
The referral service is free, although the subsequent legal representation is not.
Operation Legal Help Ohio
As part of the Ohio Military/Veterans Legal Assistance Project, Operation Legal Help Ohio seeks to connect Ohio’s low-income military personnel and veterans with volunteer lawyers willing to represent them free of charge in the following legal actions:
•Landlord/Tenant Issues & Evictions
•Credit Card Debt & Other Consumer Issues
•Uncontested Divorce or Dissolution
•Wills & Advance Directives
Wrongful Conviction Project
Through the Ohio Public Defender's Office. The mission of the project is to identify potential wrongful convictions from Ohio courts, where other appellate remedies have failed and testable biological evidence is not available.
Notification of Expedited Record Update Service Program
If your application to seal criminal records is granted, private background check companies might still show your criminal record for up to one year or more. Because of this, the Ohio legislature created a new program for people who have had their criminal records sealed. If you choose to participate, the Clerk will send notice of the Court’s order to seal or expunge your records to the Law Firm of Higbee & Associates. Then, Higbee will promptly contact background check companies and instruct them to remove your criminal records from their databases pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 109.381.
1. To participate in the program, you must pay $45.00. If sealing or expungement is denied, the $45.00 will be returned to you.
The Franklin County Municipal Court's Sealing and Expungement Office is located on the 2nd Floor of 375 S. High Street, Columbus, Ohio. The phone number is (614) 645-1706. An expungement application form can be obtained from that office. The filing fee is $50 for sealing a conviction. No filing fee for sealing a dismissal.