Expungement is a legal process through which an arrest or conviction can essentially be erased from a defendant’s criminal record. Its significance for those with past criminal convictions cannot be overstated, as it allows many people to move forward with a clean slate.

The process involved can be complicated. However, it’s essential for those with criminal records to understand when and how expungement can be achieved. 

What Is the Difference Between Expungement and Record Sealing in Ohio?

What Is the Difference Between Expungement and Record Sealing in Ohio?

While both expungement and record sealing can greatly benefit those with criminal records, they do have key distinctions.

Record Sealing

When a record is sealed, it means it’s essentially removed from public view. Most employers and the general public won’t be able to access these records during background checks or through other standard searches. 

However, certain government agencies – such as law enforcement or professional licensing boards – might still be able to access the sealed record under specific circumstances.


Expungement, on the other hand, goes a step further. When a record is expunged, it is removed from public view and deleted entirely to the point that the arrest or conviction never occurred in terms of official records.

However, over time, these terms seem to have become interchangeable in Ohio. Regardless of what it’s called or which were to take place, you can get a second chance to move forward without a criminal history following you around everywhere you go.

Expungement and Record Sealing for Ohio Misdemeanor Convictions

If you have a misdemeanor conviction in Ohio, you may be able to seek expungement or record sealing. The process begins by filing an application with the court where the sentence was imposed.

The timing of when to apply varies depending on the seriousness of your criminal offense. For most misdemeanors, you must wait one year after the final discharge of the case – meaning when all conditions and punishments related to your case (such as jail time or probation) are complete – before applying for expungement. 

However, if it was a minor/low-level misdemeanor, you can apply for expungement or record sealing six months after final discharge. 

Expungement Hearing

The next step in the expungement or record-sealing process is attending a court hearing. The prosecution has the option to object to your application. However, they must ensure their objection gets filed at least 30 days before the scheduled date of this hearing.

During this proceeding, it’s up to a judge or magistrate to review all circumstances and make the final determination on whether your request for getting records sealed or expunged will be granted. 

Keep in mind that this is not an automatic right. Instead, it generally depends upon certain criteria like the gravity of the offense and how much you’ve since rehabilitated yourself after serving your sentence. 

Not All Misdemeanors are Eligible For Expungement

While the record sealing and expungement process in Ohio offers a second chance to many people with criminal pasts, not every case is eligible. For example, for those with sex crime convictions or those who have more than two third-degree felony convictions, expungement is not possible. 

Record Sealing for Ohio Felony Convictions

In Ohio, having your record sealed for a felony is sometimes possible. Similar to misdemeanors, you need to start by filing an application with the court that handed down your sentence.

For lower-level crimes – such as fifth-degree and fourth-degree felonies – you can apply for your records to be sealed one year after the final discharge of your case. For more serious crimes, like third-degree felonies, you must wait three years from the date of final discharge to file for record sealing. 

Once your application to seal or expunge a felony record is filed in Ohio, the court holds a hearing as described above for misdemeanor offenses. 

Expungement for Ohio Felony Convictions

There’s also a possibility for some felony convictions to be expunged. If it’s possible, you may apply ten years after you become eligible for record sealing by filing an application with the sentencing court.

The process for obtaining an expungement resembles the one involved in seeking to have records sealed.

Not all felonies are eligible to be expunged. For example, second-degree and first-degree felonies cannot be expunged in Ohio.

Record Sealing and Expungement For Not Guilty Verdicts and Dismissals of Charges

The process of record expungement or sealing doesn’t only apply to convictions. If your criminal charges were dismissed – meaning the case was dropped before you went to trial or pleaded guilty – or if you were acquitted following a trial, you can have your records sealed or expunged. 

In these cases, there’s no waiting period to file your application. This is important, as the simple fact of having criminal charges can unfairly affect your life significantly – for example, when looking for jobs or housing.

A Dayton Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help With Expungement or Record Sealing

The role of expungement or record sealing provides those with criminal records a chance to start fresh. Removing these old infractions from public view can substantially enhance opportunities across critical areas such as employment, housing, and education and provide much-needed peace of mind.

If you’re living with the burden of a criminal record and believe you may be eligible for expungement or record sealing, don’t hesitate to contact us at Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers today by calling (937) 531-0435 to schedule a free consultation with a Dayton criminal defense lawyer.