Over the past three years, Ohio has greatly expanded the opportunity for persons with old convictions to have those convictions erased.
This trend continues with the passage of Senate Bill 143, championed by State Sen. William Seitz of Cincinnati, which took effect Sept. 19. Just a few years ago, a person could have only one qualifying conviction expunged from their record and only if it was the only qualifying conviction on the person’s record. This law was amended in 2012 to permit the expungement of one felony and one misdemeanor conviction or two misdemeanor convictions, if the convictions were not for the same offense.
The new law will change the definition of who is an “eligible offender” to anyone who has been convicted of an offense in Ohio or any other jurisdiction and who has not more than one felony conviction, not more than two misdemeanor convictions, or not more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction in Ohio or any other jurisdiction. Most crimes of violence or that involve child victims do not qualify for expungement. The new law does remove the requirement that the two misdemeanor convictions be for different offenses.
For example, if a person has a 1990 conviction for underage consumption and a 1991 conviction for the same offense, and otherwise has a clean record, both can now be expunged.
Ohio law also permits certain traffic offenses to be expunged where the traffic offense is so intertwined with an expungeable offense that the expungeable offense cannot be sealed without also sealing the traffic record.
This change will benefit a large class of people who have convictions that arose from routine traffic stops. The new law makes clear, however, that if a traffic infraction is expunged, any points that were previously assessed on the person’s driver’s license will not be removed by the BMV. This new provision is also not available if the traffic conviction was for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. Other than this narrow exception, traffic convictions are not expungeable.
The process for obtaining an expungement remains the same, but the new law states that if a person is seeking to have multiple convictions sealed in the same application to the court, that the clerk can only charge one filing fee. Previously, many courts in Ohio charged high filing fees for expungement applications involving multiple convictions, but the fees are now capped at $50 per application regardless of if the applicant is seeking to have one or two convictions erased.
The bottom line is that if you were previously informed that you were not eligible to have your conviction(s) expunged because you have two misdemeanor convictions for the same offense or because the records of your conviction were too closely associated with a non-expungeable traffic conviction, it might be a good idea to have a legal professional evaluate your case in light of the new changes to the law.