Everyone makes mistakes at some point. When those mistakes involve the criminal justice system, the consequences can alter the course of a life. Whether the mistake belongs to you or the system itself, a criminal conviction doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Expungement is an accessible way to clear your record and get back on track.
What Is Expungement in Ohio?
Before you stick you law firm on the case, it might be prudent to learn a little more. Expungement is a legal term that refers to sealing criminal records. Specifically, a given conviction can be expunged after a civil case convinces a judge to do so. What does that really mean? For the most part, you can treat an expunged conviction as if it never happened.
Any public access to the case will be restricted, so it won’t show up on background checks and won’t be treated as a prior offense in cases where that might matter. It won’t completely disappear, though. Certain members of the justice system, such as prosecutors and law enforcement, will still be able to view the sealed records, and it could still impact future criminal cases.
It’s also important to understand the difference between expungement and clemency. When a crime is pardoned, it simply means that no further sentences are necessary. The crime is still a part of public record; the state is just officially forgiving the offense. An expungement is closer to the state agreeing to forget it ever happened.
Eligibility for Expungement in Ohio
Eligibility for expungement varies by state and crime. In Ohio, only a first time offense can be expunged. This means any conviction of any crime in any state will make you ineligible for an expungement case. Additionally, Ohio does not allow any Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI) offense to be expunged.
If you are specifically worried about OVI charges, don’t give up just yet. There are some important exceptions to understand. First, OVI criminal records won’t be expunged, but you can still file for your Driving Abstracts to be sealed. This is a part of the public record that insurance companies and other agencies use to check your driving history. If it is sealed, it can keep you safe from penalties and higher fees that might otherwise give you trouble.
If you are among the thousands of Ohio residents who might otherwise have a first offense expunged if not for a driving mistake, you might be in luck. As of 2012, the Senate Bill 377 offers specific exceptions for expungement when OVI was the first offense. In other words, if the situation qualifies, you can have a second offense expunged if an OVI was the first. This is still important to clear an otherwise life-ruining mistake from your background check, and it can help you with job applications, special licenses, clearance and other factors that rely on passing a background check.
If you think expungement might be the right course for you, or if you just want to explore more options, have a chat with your lawyer. In many cases, the qualifications are straightforward enough to decide if this is a route worth pursuing. If not, your attorney may be able to provide other alternatives.