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Does a Previously Sealed Misdemeanor Conviction “Count” as a Conviction for Purposes of Ohio Expungement?

Maybe.  Under Ohio law, it is up to individual judges whether to consider a prior sealed conviction when deciding whether an expungement applicant is an eligible offender.  If the court chooses to, it may decide under the statute to not count the prior sealed conviction.

Who is Eligible for Expungement of their Record Ohio?

Generally, an applicant is eligible for expungement (to have their record sealed) under R.C 2953.31 if she has:

  • No more than one felony conviction
  • No more than two misdemeanor convictions if the convictions are not of the same offense, or
  • Not more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction.

If two or more convictions stem from the same act or happened at the same time, they count as one conviction.

Prior Sealed Misdemeanor Conviction Not Counted for Expungement Eligibility

One recent Franklin County (Columbus) Ohio case – In re S.F.M., 2014-Ohio-5860 – helps explain the answer to this question.

In this case, the expungement applicant had the following convictions:

  • In 2004, convicted of one misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of property, which was previously sealed (expunged).
  • In 2007, convicted of one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while under the influence (“OVI”).
  • In 2010, convicted of receiving stolen property and attempted identity fraud, both of which are first-degree misdemeanors (which counted as one “conviction” because they occurred in the same case).

In 2013, the applicant applied to seal her convictions.

The state objected, arguing the applicant had more than two misdemeanors and was ineligible for expungement.

At the hearing, the applicant argued that she was eligible because her prior sealed conviction did not count as a “prior misdemeanor conviction” to bar her application.  The court agreed and sealed her records.  On appeal, the court of appeals agreed.

Although the trial court may consider sealed convictions, it is not required to consider sealed convictions when deciding an expungement case. 

When a record is sealed, it is is “considered not to have occurred,” except that if convicted of a subsequent offense, the court may consider the sealed record in imposing its sentence.

Thus, her record was sealed in the end.

If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for expungement in Ohio, talk to our Columbus expungement attorneys about the details of your charges.