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Expungements, Part 1: You May Be an Eligible Offender If…

Interested in having a prior criminal conviction expunged? That is, having the record permanently sealed so that as far as anyone can tell, the whole thing never happened? This can be life-changing if background checks are preventing you from getting a job, a professional license, an apartment, a date (hey, you never know), or anything else because of your criminal history.

A new Ohio law went into effect last fall that changed the definition of an eligible offender, broadening it for the first time to offenders with more than one conviction. But figuring out if you meet the new criteria is a bit like ordering off a Chinese menu —  you know, one from Column A, one from Column B, etc. So get out a pen and paper and do the following:

  • Divide the paper into five columns
  • Call the first column Felony Type 1
  • Call the second column Felony Type 2
  • Call the third column One Misdemeanor
  • Call the fourth column A Different Misdemeanor
  • Call the fifth column Yet Another Kind of Misdemeanor

Of course, you can use the actual names of the crimes. The important thing is to distinguish felonies from misdemeanors, and to separate each of those into specific offenses. Now, write the number of convictions you have for each in the appropriate column. The bottom line:

  • If anything listed in columns one and two is a first- or second-degree felony. Stop here. You are not eligible.
  • If the total of columns one and two is more than 1, you are not eligible — unless there is only a number in one of those columns, and the crimes were committed at the same time or within a three-month period. If so, you can count them as one conviction (although in some cases, the court may disagree).
  • If the total of columns three, four, and five is more than 2, you are not eligible.
  • If you are still in the game at this point: Add up all the columns. If the total is not more than 2, congratulations, you may be eligible! Talk to a criminal defense attorney today about your prospects for starting over with a clean slate.
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