What does it mean to seal a record? How is that different from expungement?

Sealing a record means that it should no longer be available through publicly available records or background checks, though it may still be available to some employers, such as many schools or health-care providers, through government-issued BCI/FBI background checks. Expungement, on the other hand, means that the record is destroyed. Expungement is available in only limited situations, such as for victims of human trafficking.

What kinds of convictions cannot be sealed?

R.C. 2953.36 lists types of offenses that cannot be sealed. You can also consult our two-page guide, “Can I Seal My Criminal Record?” Some of the common types of convictions that cannot be sealed are first- and second-degree felonies (“F1s” and “F2s”); traffic offenses (except as provided in R.C. 2953.61); and certain offenses of violence or sex offenses. Whether your particular conviction is sealable—and, separately, whether you are eligible for sealing—can be complicated, though, so we advise consulting with a trained attorney.

What if I have criminal charges pending against me?

You are not eligible to seal a record if you have any “pending” criminal cases—for example, if you are currently facing criminal charges. How far this rule extends into things like probation and unpaid fines in other cases is open to debate and may vary based on where in Ohio you live. However, you will likely increase your chances of success by resolving all matters, such as any unpaid fines, probation, or outstanding warrants in all other cases before applying to seal a record.

When can I apply to seal a particular record of conviction?

You must wait a certain amount of time after “final discharge” from a conviction before you can apply for that particular record to be sealed. A case has reached final discharge when you have completed all obligations in the sentence, including any jail or prison sentence, probation or parole, and restitution or fines.

With the exception of violations of R.C. 2921.43 (soliciting or accepting improper compensation), the waiting periods are:

  • If the conviction is a 3rd-degree felony: 3 years
  • If the conviction is a 4th-degree felony, 5th-degree felony, or misdemeanor: 1 year

What if I was not convicted?

If your case was dismissed or you were acquitted, you can apply right away! If your case was “ignored” or “no-billed,” you have to wait two years.

Where do I apply to have my record sealed?

You must turn in your application to the particular court where the conviction or non-conviction occurred. So if you have both a felony and a misdemeanor, for example, you will likely have to file in two different courts.

Is there a fee for applying to seal records?

It depends. Sealing non-convictions is free. Sealing convictions requires a filing fee of at least $50 (and some courts charge more). That said, the statute gives you the right to have the fee waived if you are indigent. You can claim indigency by filing an “affidavit of indigency.” It is ultimately up to the court whether to waive the fee for you.

Disclaimer: This FAQ is a general source of information and is not a substitute for individualized legal advice. For specific questions, we recommend consulting an attorney. You are always welcome to contact the Ohio Justice & Policy Center’s Second Chance Team at secondchance@ohiojpc.org.