Expungement in Ohio and the Federal REDEEM Act
Expungement, which is defined as the process in which the legal record of an arrest or criminal conviction is sealed in the eyes of the law, allows people with criminal records to move on, improving their chances of being productive member of society. In Ohio, this process is called “sealing of record,” as described in Section 2953.31 of the Ohio Revised Code. Although expungement is not proper term to describe this process, the word is routinely used by lawyers.
Currently in the United States, it is estimated that eight percent of the overall population has a felony conviction on their record. Having a felony conviction can lead to difficulties obtaining a employment and negatively effects people for the rest of their lives. According to the New York Law Journal, "many federal judges readily acknowledge the often unfair difficulties faced by individuals convicted of a crime." However, there is no federal processes in place outlining how expungements should be handled, resulting in confusion and difficultly for people trying to obtain them.
At the federal level, expungements have actually become harder to obtain. Congress repealed the Federal Youth Corrections Act in 1984. This act allowed alternatives for sentencing young people, sparing them from normal sentencing and incarceration.
However, federal legislation has been proposed meant to address this issue. The Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act, also known as the REDEEM Act, "significantly expands the rights of juveniles and adults to seal and expunge their federal records." This bill, though promising, was introduced on April 5, 2017, and has yet to be sent to the House or the Senate. So, in the meantime, what options do people with criminals records have?
At the state level, since 2009 over 60% of states have expanded their definitions of those eligible for expungement. In Ohio specifically, there are several situations in which a person is eligible for expungement.
In order to apply for an expungment, a person must file an application to seal, which the court may either grant or deny. In order to be expungement eligible, or an "eligible offender," a person must have (1) not more than 2 misdemeanor convictions; (2) not more than 1 felony conviction; or (3) not more than 1 misdemeanor conviction and 1 felony conviction. Additionally, there is a time restriction on when a person is able to file an application to seal. For a misdemeanor conviction, a person must wait one year after the final discharge. For a felony conviction, a person much wait 3 years after the final discharge. A final discharge occurs when the person has satisfied all of the terms of their sentence, such as paying a fine and completing probation. If a person found not guilty, or if the complaint or indictment against them was dismissed, they can file the application right away.
To read more able the rules and regulations surrounding expungement in Ohio, read our guide to expungment, which can be found here.