How to Expunge a Felony in Ohio

Three Parts:Hiring An AttorneyDeciding to Apply for ExpungementApplying for an Expungement

If you have been convicted of a felony, that conviction is probably a matter of public record and visible to anyone who searches for it. You may be able to have your criminal record expunged, which removes or alters the conviction in the court's records. Expungement legally permits you to answer "no" when asked whether you have been convicted of a crime when applying for a private sector job or to rent a home.[1] In Ohio, having your record expunged is the same as having it sealed.[2]

Part 1
Hiring An Attorney

  1. Image titled Expunge a Felony in Ohio Step 1
    Understand what help you need. If you are looking at getting a criminal conviction expunged from your record, you may want to consider hiring a criminal defense attorney. A criminal attorney can help you navigate the legal process, file paperwork, and convince the judge to grant your expungement petition.
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    Talk to your previous attorney. If you had an attorney help you when you were arrested, charged, and convicted of the underlying crime you are trying to expunge, ask that attorney for help. If you liked how that attorney handled your previous case, ask them to help you with the expungement. Hiring an attorney that is familiar with your case will expedite the expungement process and will make the attorney's job much easier.
    • If you hired a private attorney, simply go to their office or give them a call. Ask if they would be willing to help with a matter related to the previous representation and see what the fees would be.
    • If you had a public defender represent you when you were charged and convicted of the crime in Ohio, that public defender may be able to help you with expungement. Often, a public defender can help their past clients with matters related to the original representation. If you still have the attorney's contact information, use it and see if the public defender can help.
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    Assemble a list of new attorneys. If you did not have help with your underlying conviction, you will need to search for a new attorney to help you. The local bar association should have a roster of attorneys in the area who practice criminal law.[3] You can also go through the phone book, conduct online searches, and take down information from advertisements.
    • A number of attorneys get clients through referrals. Ask your friends and family if they know any good attorneys or if they can ask around. This is a great way to get an attorney that is trusted by people close to you.
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    Research the attorneys on your list. Once you have created a list of possible attorneys, you will want to research their disciplinary history and their reputation.
    • To research an attorney's disciplinary history, access the Supreme Court of Ohio website, where you can search for attorneys by their name, registration number, and address.[4] When you find the attorney in the database, you will be able to see if they have any history of discipline.
    • To research an attorney's reputation, you can look at online reviews or talk to individuals close to the attorney. Try looking online and searching for the attorney's name plus words such as "review," "complaint," and "scam." These searches can lead you to peer reviews, blogs, and news articles. Read these reviews but be aware that emotions often run high in criminal cases and not all bad reviews are warranted. However, if there seems to be a negative theme associated with the attorney, consider crossing them off your list.
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    Schedule initial consultations. Once you narrow your list to your top three to five candidates, call them and set up an initial consultation. At an initial consultation, you will have a chance to talk to the attorney about the expungement you want. The attorney will tell you what they can do for you and you can gauge their interest and ability.
    • Ask the attorney any question you want and make sure you get the answers you need while at the initial consultation.
    • Some attorneys will charge you for an initial consultation so make sure you know what the cost will be ahead of time.
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    Hire an attorney. After you take part in all the initial consultations you feel necessary, sit down and choose the attorney you feel most comfortable with. The attorney you choose should be confident in their ability to handle expungements; they should be courteous and professional; and they should respond to your inquiries promptly.
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    Know that you can fire your attorney. When you hire an attorney, they work for you. Therefore, if you are not happy with the services you are receiving, you can fire them at any time. If you feel like your attorney is not doing what they should be, talk to them and try to resolve the issue. If you cannot resolve the issue, write a letter to your attorney terminating them.

Part 2
Deciding to Apply for Expungement

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    Understand the limits of an expungement. Having a conviction expunged means that it is sealed and no longer publicly available. However, law enforcement, prosecutors, and other agencies can still view the record, and if you commit another crime, the record can still be used against you at your sentencing.[5]
    • Unlike expungement, a pardon involves being forgiven for the crime you committed.[6] While an expungement acts to hide your record from some people, a pardon still shows up on your record, as does the underlying conviction.[7] A pardon is considered an honor and is only available to those who have demonstrated exemplary behavior after the conviction.[8]
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    Verify that your conviction is eligible for expungement. In Ohio, many felonies (and some misdemeanors) cannot be expunged. You are not eligible for expungement if you were convicted of a first or second degree felony, a violent felony, or a sexual offense or offense against a child.[9]
    • You are not eligible if your crime carried a mandatory prison term. If you were eligible for probation, but still served a prison term, you can still seek an expungement.[10]
    • If you are not sure what sure what crime is listed on the Judgment Order of Conviction, contact the court clerk. The clerk can give you a copy of the Order for a small fee of one or two dollars.[11]
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    Finish your sentence and wait three years. Before you can get a felony expunged, you must complete your jail or prison time and/or your probation period. Then you must wait three years from the date you completed that term or period before you apply for an expungement.
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    Avoid another conviction. In general, you cannot get an expungement if you have been convicted of another crime in addition to the one you are trying to expunge.[12]
    • You can still get an expungement if you were convicted of two or more crimes resulting from the same incident, such as shoplifting and then resisting arrest for shoplifting.[13]
    • Minor misdemeanors, such as most traffic offenses, do not count as criminal convictions.[14]
    • You cannot get a second expungement if you have already had another conviction expunged.[15]
    • You cannot request an expungement if you have criminal or traffic proceedings pending against you.[16]

Part 3
Applying for an Expungement

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    Fill out the necessary forms. To apply for an expungement, you will need to fill out and submit an "Application for Sealing of a Criminal Record Pursuant to ORC § 2953.32" and a "Judgment Entry for Sealing."[17]
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    Attach a copy of the conviction. You will need to attach a certified copy of the final order of the conviction to your application. If you do not have a certified copy, contact the court clerk. Give the clerk your case number or ask the clerk to look it up. The clerk will give you a certified copy for a fee of one or two dollars.[18]
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    File your forms. Make three copies of your of your paperwork and take them to the clerk's office. (Do not file the "Judgment Entry for Sealing." You will bring that to your court date.)The clerk will stamp the original and copies, keep the original and two copies, and return one copy to you. The clerk will contact you by mail with a hearing date. You will be required to pay a $50 filing fee.[19] If you cannot afford the fee, fill out and file a "Poverty Affidavit."[20][21]
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    Go to the hearing. At the hearing, the court will consider whether or not to grant your application to have your felony expunged from your record. Tell the judge why you want the conviction expunged, such as applying for work or renting a home.[22] The judge may ask you what you have done to change your ways and stay out of trouble. The prosecutor will also be present, and will have an opportunity to argue why the judge should deny your application.
    • To prepare in advance, write out how your attitudes, beliefs, and lifestyle have changed since your conviction. Plan to tell the judge that you are sorry for what you did, and that you have made changes, such as seeing a psychiatrist or stopping using drugs or alcohol.[23]


  • This article is intended as legal information and does not provide legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact a licensed attorney.

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Categories: Criminal and Penal Law Procedure