Everyone makes mistakes that they wish to forget. When discretions become part of the public record, a person can find it harder to avoid the consequences of a lapse in judgment.
Many judicial and law enforcement systems allow the expungement of a record for people who have learned from their mistakes and moved on.
Ohio’s process of expungement
Expungement involves sealing or destroying a record to make it unavailable to the general public or nonexistent. This action removes the information from background checks.
Ohio offers a form of expungement that permits sealing a court file and removing all references to a previous criminal conviction. However, the courts do not destroy the records. Employers of occupations dealing with public safety or vulnerable populations may gain access to the files. Future criminal investigations might also open the sealed records.
Even if the court did not convict a person of a crime, the mere occurrence of a case might prejudice certain institutions against a person seeking citizenship, finding housing, looking for a job or acquiring professional licensure. During the trial, embarrassing details or other socially questionable behavior may come to light.
Qualifications for expungement
The Ohio Revised Code, Section 2953, sets forth various conditions for expungement. A person may have no pending criminal charges when requesting the action. An individual must also pass a statutory waiting period.
The law precludes specific convictions from expungement, particularly various infractions involving minors, specific felonies and other violent offenses. Also, a conviction that required a mandatory prison term does not qualify. However, a sentence that allowed probation or community control might be eligible.
Citizens should remember that expungement does not erase all accounts of a trial. Other organizations and institutions, such as news media and employers, have the right to maintain records about relevant incidents.