Attorney for Sealing Records in Columbus, Ohio

Ohio law provides for a two-step process for sealing records. First, the trial court must determine if a person is eligible; only then can it proceed with a determination of facts and decide whether to seal a record. The specific requirements for eligibility vary depending on whether a person is seeking to:

  • Seal records related to arrests and cases ending in “not guilty” findings, dismissals, and “no bill” verdicts; or
  • Seal records of convictions and bail forfeitures. See R.C. 2953.32 and 2953.52.

Call the criminal defense attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm to learn more about sealing a criminal record in Columbus, Ohio, or the surrounding areas in Franklin County, Ohio. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Is the Applicant to Seal an Eligible Offender?

When a person seeks to seal a record of a conviction, it must be determined if he or she is an “eligible offender” which means the court must determine whether:

  • The criminal record reflects a permissible number of convictions;
  • The conviction or convictions sought to be sealed are currently eligible to be sealed (based on the time elapsed since the time of final discharge and the nature of the conviction); and
  • No criminal proceedings are currently pending against the applicant.

See R.C. 2953.31(A); 2953.32(A) and (C)(1)(a) and (b).

Ohio Revised Code 2953.31(A), as amended by 2012 Am.Sub.S.B. No. 337 (“S.B. No. 337”) expanded the number of offenses subject to the sealing of records. When determining whether an applicant is an “eligible offender,” the court must consider whether the person:

  • Was convicted of an offense in Ohio or any other jurisdiction;
  • Has no more than one felony conviction;
  • Has no more than two misdemeanor convictions*; or
  • Has no more than one felony conviction and one misdemeanor conviction in Ohio or any other jurisdiction.

*Effective September 19, 2014, the legislature removed the language “if the convictions are not of the same offense” when determining whether the offender had no more than two misdemeanor convictions. 2014 Am.Sub.S.B. No. 143.

Under R.C. 2953.32(C)(1)(a), when a trial court reviews an application to seal an adult criminal record, it must determine as a threshold question whether an applicant is an “eligible offender” as set forth in R.C. 2953.32(A) and 2953.31(A).

A court lacks jurisdiction to seal records when an applicant is not an “eligible offender.” State v. Dominy, 10th Dist. No. 13AP–124, 2013–Ohio–3744, ¶ 6.

Which Prior Convictions Are Counted?

In most cases, a conviction for a minor misdemeanor, for a violation of any section in Chapter 4507., 4510., 4511., 4513., or 4549. of the state Revised Code, or for a violation of a municipal ordinance that is substantially similar to any section in those chapters cannot be applied as a conviction that counts against the offender under the sealed records statute.

Convictions that do not apply under the statute include:

  • Violations of R.C. Chapters 4507 and 4510, which relate to administrative drivers license concerns;
  • R.C. Chapter 4511, which relates to traffic controls and signs;
  • R.C. Chapter 4513, which relates to vehicle equipment requirements and load limitations; and
  • R.C. Chapter 4549, which generally relates to motor vehicle crimes.

The following charges shall be considered convictions that may be applied under the statute:

  • A violation of sections 4511.19, 4511.251, 4549.02, 4549.021, 4549.03, 4549.042, or 4549.62;
  • A violation of sections 4549.41 to 4549.46 of the Revised Code;
  • A violation of sections 4510.11 or 4510.14 of the Revised Code that is based upon the offender’s operation of a vehicle during a suspension imposed under sections 4511.191 or 4511.196 of the Revised Code;
  • A violation of a substantially equivalent municipal ordinance;
  • A felony violation of Title XLV of the Revised Code, or
  • A violation of a substantially equivalent former law of this state or former municipal ordinance.

Offenses that may be applied as convictions under the statute are more serious traffic offenses, including:

  • Violations of R.C. 4511.19, operation of a vehicle while intoxicated;
  • R.C. 4511.251, street racing; and
  • R.C. 4549.02, 4549.021 and 4549.03, stopping after an accident involving property damage.

Also, many serious crimes may be applied as convictions, including:

  • R.C. 4549.042, involving the sale or possession of master car keys for illegal purposes;
  • R.C. 4549.62, vehicle identification number fraud;
  • R.C. 4549.41 through 4549.46, odometer fraud; and R.C. 4510.11 and 4510.14, driving under suspension.

List of Offenses Ineligible for Sealing

Ohio law provides that a conviction for certain types of offenses can never be sealed, even if it is the only conviction. Those offenses include:

  • Any first or second degree felony;
  • Any offense with a mandatory prison term;
  • Any offense of violence including:
    • 2919.22 Endangering children (*Division (B)(1), (2), (3), or (4))
    • 2911.12 Burglary (*Division (A)(1), (2), or (3) of section)
    • 2923.161 Improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation, in a school safety zone or with intent to cause harm or panic to persons in a school building or at a school function
    • 2921.34 Escape
    • 2921.04 Intimidation of attorney, victim or witness in criminal case
    • 2921.03 Intimidation
    • 2919.25 Domestic violence
    • 2917.31 Inducing panic (*unless the offense is a first degree misdemeanor)
    • 2917.03 Riot (*unless the offense is a first degree misdemeanor)
    • 2917.02 Aggravated riot
    • 2917.01 Inciting to violence (*unless the offense is a first degree misdemeanor)
    • 2911.11 Aggravated burglary
    • 2911.02 Robbery
    • 2911.01 Aggravated robbery
    • 2909.24 Terrorism
    • 2909.03 Arson
    • 2909.02 Aggravated arson
    • 2907.12 Felonious sexual penetration (former)
    • 2907.05 Gross sexual imposition
    • 2907.03 Sexual battery
    • 2907.02 Rape
    • 2905.11 Extortion
    • 2905.02 Abduction
    • 2905.01 Kidnapping
    • 2903.22 Menacing
    • 2903.211 Menacing by stalking
    • 2903.21 Aggravated menacing
    • 2903.15 Permitting child abuse
    • 2903.13 Assault (*unless the offense is a first degree misdemeanor)
    • 2903.12 Aggravated assault
    • 2903.11 Felonious assault
    • 2903.04 Involuntary manslaughter
    • 2903.03 Voluntary manslaughter
    • 2903.02 Murder
    • 2903.01 Aggravated murder

Additionally, any sexual offense not already listed is ineligible to be sealed, including:

  • Unlawful sexual contact with a minor
  • Illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance
  • Sexual imposition
  • Importuning
  • Pandering obscenity involving a minor
  • Pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor

Although a traffics offenses can never be sealed, they may not be applied as criminal convictions unless they are one of the traffic offenses listed below:

  • Knowingly offering to sell a car on which the odometer was tampered with
  • Tampering with an odometer
  • Sale or possession of a master key designed to fit more than one vehicle
  • Driving under suspension (after DUI or refusing to take breathalyzer/chemical test)
  • Offenses with purpose to conceal or destroy identity of car or its parts
  • DUI
  • Street racing
  • Various types of hit-and-runs
  • Leaving the scene of an accident

Facts Support the Required Findings to Seal Record

Once an applicant has been found to be an eligible offender, the statutes require a court to use its discretion to weigh a number of factors. The factors vary, depending on whether the person seeks to seal records of convictions and bail forfeitures or records relating to arrests and cases ending in dismissals, “not guilty” findings, or “no bill” verdicts. See R.C. 2953.32 and 2953.52.

When considering whether to seal records of a conviction for an eligible offender, a trial court must make statutorily required determinations of:

  • Whether the applicant has been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court;
  • Whether the reasons, if any, offered by the prosecutor in any written objection against sealing the records are persuasive; and
  • Whether the interests of the applicant in having conviction records sealed outweigh the legitimate needs, if any, of the state to maintain those records.

See R.C. 2953.32(C)(1)(c) through (e).

If the trial court finds that a person is eligible and determines that the facts supporting the other required findings should be construed to favor sealing the records of conviction, then the trial court “shall order all official records of the case that pertain to the conviction or bail forfeiture sealed.” R.C. 2953.32(C)(2).

Under S .B. No. 337, if the jurisdictional requirements and discretionary factors are met, a trial court is without authority to refuse to seal the records. Further, the sealing statutes are remedial and are, therefore, to be construed liberally to promote their purpose and assist the parties in obtaining justice. State ex rel. Gains v. Rossi, 86 Ohio St.3d 620, 622 (1999).

Additional Resources for Sealing an Ohio Record

Sealing Criminal Records in Ohio — Find information from the Ohio Justice & Policy Center and Ohio Poverty Law Center about the process of sealing a criminal record in Ohio. Find a list of offenses that are ineligible for sealing of adult criminal convictions.

Franklin County – answers to common questions — Visit the Franklin County Clerk of Courts website to find out more information about having a record sealed or expunged. The website discusses Ohio Revised Code statutes 2953.32 for sealing and 2953.36 for eligibility guidelines, and  2953.31 for first offender qualifications. Learn more about reentry participants and find templates, forms, and links to additional resources.

Sealing of Court Records in Franklin County — Visit the website for the Franklin County Municipal Court to learn more about sealing a court record in the Criminal/Traffic Department in Franklin County, Ohio. Record checks are obtained through the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. An application for expunction can be filed in limited circumstances such as for certain firearm offenses and offenses committed by victims of human trafficking.


Finding an Attorney to Seal a Record in Franklin County, Ohio

If you want to seal a record in Columbus, Ohio, or the surrounding areas of Franklin County, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Joslyn Law Firm. We can help you determine if you are eligible and if so, we can help guide you through the process as painlessly and as quickly as possible.

Confidential Informants and Search Warrants in Ohio

In many drug cases in Columbus, Ohio, and throughout Franklin County, law enforcement officers use a confidential informant, also known as a CI. The confidential informant is often facing his or her own criminal charges. Law enforcement officers will negotiate with the confidential information, sometimes through the informant’s criminal defense attorney, for cooperation in setting up another person.

In exchange, law enforcement officers will promise not to arrest or prosecute the confidential informant for his or her own criminal charges. In some cases, the confidential informant is actually paid cash or other benefits for the cooperation.

The confidential informant then acts as a witness, and will approach the defendant for the purpose of getting the defendant to engage in illegal conduct such as a drug transaction to sell marijuana or another controlled substance. Because the confidential informant is acting at the request of law enforcement, the confidential informant receives immunity for his or her participation in these crimes.

In many of these cases, entrapment is an important defense that can be used to show that “but for” the actions of the confidential informant or undercover officer, the crime would not have occurred and the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime.

Search Warrants in Drug Cases in Columbus, Ohio

After using a confidential informant to manufacture a crime involving the defendant, law enforcement officers will then use the information provided by the confidential informant as the basis to obtain a search warrant. Under Crim. R. 41, for any search warrant to issue, it must be supported by a sworn affidavit or affidavits establishing the grounds for the warrant.

The affidavit in support of the search warrant must also name or describe the person to be searched or particularly describe the place to be searched for and seized, the place to be searched, and the person to be searched, as well as the factual basis for the allegation of a crime.

When law enforcement uses information from the confidential informant to obtain the basis for the search warrant, the officers will often ask the court to leave the contents of the warrant “under seal.”

Sealing the contents of the warrant means that information in the search warrant is not available for public view. That information might include the affidavit, search warrant, inventory, and the return on search warrant listing the warrant number.

In those cases, the warrant is served, but the affidavit supporting the warrant, inventory, and return of the search warrant often remain sealed. In this way, the law enforcement officers can keep the identity of the confidential informant secret, even from the criminal defense attorney representing the defense for the pending charges.

Motions to Unseal the Search Warrant

Under Article I, § 10 of the Ohio Constitution and under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, an attorney has an obligation to render effective assistance of counsel to the defendant.

Effective assistance of counsel in these types of cases requires investigating all information that would be helpful or beneficial to the defendant in preparing a defense to the criminal charges.

Talking to the confidential informant may help the defense determine what other criminal acts may have occurred at the same location. Also, talking to the confidential informant is critical to determining whether entrapment occurred.

While it may be necessary to keep a warrant sealed for a limited period of time in some cases, it is difficult to imagine any reason for keeping a warrant sealed for more than a short time span. If the warrant is not unsealed quickly, then the criminal defense attorney may file a Motion to Unseal the Search Warrant.

The motion will request that the Court issue an order directing the Clerk of Court for Franklin County and the State of Ohio to unseal and make public the affidavit, search warrant, inventory, and the return on search warrant.

A qualified criminal defense attorney in Columbus, OH, can also file a motion to compel disclosure of the confidential informant’s identity.

Finding a Drug Crimes Attorney in Columbus, Ohio

If you are facing serious felony drug charges in Columbus, Ohio, involving an undercover sting operation using a confidential informant or undercover officers, then contact an experienced drug crime attorney at Joslyn Law Firm.

We can help you understand the charges against you, the best way to assert the entrapment defense as mitigation, as a matter of law, or as an affirmative defense at trial.

Call today to find out what our drug crime attorneys in Columbus, Ohio can do to help you fight the charges.

Ohio’s Right to a Speedy Trial

If the prosecutor violates your right to a speedy trial, then the case should be dismissed. Your right to a speedy trial means the state must bring you to trial within the time limits proscribed in the Ohio Revised Code. For a first or second degree misdemeanor charge in Ohio, the case must be tried within 90 days unless you waive your right to a speedy trial.

Even if your statutory rights to a speedy trial were not violated, the State might have violated your constitutional rights to a speedy trial after a long delay.

The statute of limitations is set out in R.C. 2901.13(A)(b). It permits the State two years within which to bring misdemeanor charges against an individual. The statute of limitations is different than the right to a speedy trial because one governs when the prosecution must be commenced and the other governs when the case must be tried.

Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Joslyn Law Firm in Columbus, Ohio, for a case in Franklin County or the surrounding areas.

Statutory Right to a Speedy Trial in Ohio

Once a first or second degree misdemeanor charge is filed or an arrest warrant is issued for an individual, the person must be tried within 90 days. R.C. 2945.71(B)(2).

A prosecution is commenced on the earlier of:

  • The date an indictment is returned or an information is filed; or
  • The date a lawful arrest without a warrant is made;
  • The date a warrant, summons, citation or other process is issued.

See Ohio Revised Code 2901.13(E).

A prosecution is not commenced by the return of an indictment or the filing of an information unless reasonable diligence is exercised to issue and execute process on the same. R.C. 2901.13(E).

The prosecution bears the burden of proving the trial commenced within the 90-day statute of limitations. State v. Greer, 2 Ohio App.3d 399, 442 N.E.2d 473 (1981). To do so, the prosecution must demonstrate that reasonable diligence was exercised to serve the summons. State v. King, 103 Ohio App. 3d 210, 212-213, 658 N.E.2d 1138 (1995).

The prosecutors representing the State of Ohio fail to show reasonable diligence when the state attempts an improper service or receives a return on service that is undeliverable and then the state takes no further action. State v. Morris, 20 Ohio App.3d 321, 486 N.E.2d 168 (1984); State v. Greer, 2 Ohio App.3d 399, 442 N.E.2d 473 (1981).

If the delay in prosecution of a criminal case is due to the state’s failure to attempt to serve the defendant, the delay is unconstitutionally unreasonable and violates the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. State v. Sears, 166 Ohio App.3d 166, 849 N.E.2d 1060 (2005).

Constitutional Right to a Speedy Trial

If the state has not violated the statutory provisions for a speedy trial in Ohio, the U.S. Constitution also provides for a constitutional right to a speedy trial that is broader than the statutory rights set by each state. To assert this claim, the defendant must show that pursuant to the relevant Ohio statutes and case law, the delay is constitutionally unreasonable and defendant has been prejudiced by the delay.

The court will dismiss the case when it is shown that the prosecutors with the State of Ohio failed to bring the defendant to a speedy trial in violation of his state and federal constitutional rights.

The provisions of Section 10, Article I of the Ohio Constitution and of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, guarantee a defendant in a criminal case the right to a speedy trial.

Although statutory periods exist in Ohio, those statutory periods of limitations are not relevant to a determination of whether an individual’s constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated by an unjustified delay in prosecution. State v. Selvage, 80 Ohio St.3d 465, 468, 687 N.E.2d 433 (1997).

For purposes of raising a constitutional challenge based on post-indictment delay, the U.S. Supreme Court set forth a four-part test in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972). Under the Barker test, a trial court is required to consider four factors:

  1. The length of delay;
  2. The reason for the delay;
  3. The defendant’s assertion of his rights; and
  4. Prejudice to the defendant.

When determining whether constitutional rights to a speedy trial have been violated, the first factor for the court to consider is the length of the delay. Under the Supreme Court’s analysis in Barker, the more straight-forward and ordinary the crime, the shorter the amount of time that is required to prejudice the defendant. Barker at 531.

Relying on R.C. 2945.71, the First District Court of Appeals held that for a misdemeanor, any delay longer than 90 days is presumptively prejudicial. Sears at ¶ 12. Therefore, if the length of time from the charges being filed to the service of the warrant is longer than 90 days, the next step of the test is triggered. Id.

The First District addressed the second and third factor of the Barker analysis in State v. Sears. Id. at ¶ 14. In Sears, there was no evidence the state pursued attempts to serve a warrant or complaint on the defendant. Although the complaint and affidavit contained an incorrect zip code, the state never suggested it had a problem locating the defendant or needed extra time to collect witnesses or to file pretrial motions.

In Sears, the defendant never attempted to avoid service or move outside of the jurisdiction; he only learned of the warrant when he was pulled over for a traffic offense nine months after the complaint was filed. In affirming the trial court’s dismissal on speedy trial grounds, the court found that the defendant should not be punished for failing to assert a right that he could not have otherwise known about. Id. at ¶ 15.

Likewise, in State v. Looper, a copy of the indictment was mailed to the defendant by certified mail and was returned marked “addressee unknown.” State v. Looper, 61 Ohio App.3d 448, 573 N.E.2d 123 (1988). The warrant was not executed until six years later.

“Because the State made no effort to notify the defendant of the indictment at her mother’s address, the court found that the ‘reason for delay’ factor weighed against the state.” Id. at 450.

For the fourth factor, the defendant has the burden of showing the prejudice that occurred in his or her particular case. United States v. Lawson, 780 F.2d 535, 541-542 (6th Cir. 1985). A lengthy delay in prosecuting the defendant, by itself, does not constitute actual prejudice. The defendant must demonstrate how the length of the delay has prejudiced his ability to have a fair trial. United States v. Norris, 501 F.Supp.2d 1092, 1096 (S.D.Oh.2007).

The court in Sears noted that impairment of one’s defense is the most difficult form of speedy trial prejudice to prove because time’s erosion of exculpatory evidence and testimony can rarely be shown. Sears at ¶ 16 citing Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647, 655, 120 L.Ed.2d 520, 112 S.Ct. 2686 (1992). However, the court in Sears held that prejudice is presumed when the government fails to use reasonable diligence to serve the warrant. Sears at ¶ 16.

Finding an Attorney for Speedy Trial Claims

If you are charged with a crime and need a criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges in Columbus, OH, or the surrounding areas of Franklin County, then contact an experience attorney at the Joslyn Law Firm.

We are experienced in raising speedy trial claims when it can be shown that the state prosecutor did not commence the trial within the statutory time period provided by R.C. 2945.71(B)(2), in violation of the right to a speedy trial.

Our attorneys are experienced in asserting this important right guaranteed by Section 10, Article I of the Ohio Constitution and the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is applicable to the State by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Talk to us about the viability of a motion to dismiss after a violation of the right to a speedy trial in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, the Federal and State Constitutions, and relevant case law.

Ohio’s Two-Year Statute of Limitations

In a misdemeanor case, Ohio’s Revised Code 2901.13 provides that a prosecution for a misdemeanor shall be barred unless it commenced (began) within two years of the date that the offense occurred. R.C. 2901.13(A)(1)(b).

In determining the date the prosecution was commenced, the Courts look at the earlier of:

  • The date an indictment is returned or an information is filed;
  • The date a lawful arrest without a warrant is made; or
  • The date the warrant, summons, citation, or other process is issued.

See R.C. 2901.13(B).

“A prosecution is not commenced upon issuance of a warrant, summons, citation, or other process, unless reasonable diligence is exercised to execute the same.” State v. King, 103 Ohio App. 3d 210 (1995).

Prosecutor’s Burden to Prove the Commencement Date

The prosecutor with the State of Ohio bears the burden of proving that a criminal prosecution commenced within the two-year statute of limitations. Id. at 212.

The First District Court of Appeals has defined “reasonable diligence” as compliance with Crim.R. 4(D). That provision requires that the warrant is actually executed by an arrest or summons. State v. Greer, 2 Ohio App.3d 399, 400, 442 N.E.2d 473 (1981).

For law enforcement officers in Ohio to commence a prosecution, personal service is required when a summons is issued in lieu of arrest. Crim. R. 4(D)(3).

For people other than law enforcement officers, personal or residential service is required when a summons is issued in lieu of arrest. Id.

Speedy Trial Violations on Constitution Grounds

In many of these cases, the defendant will also assert a claim that the prosecution is barred because of a violation of his or her right to a speedy trial on Constitutional grounds.

In State v. Luck, 15 Ohio St.3d 150, 153, 15 Ohio B. 296, 472 N.E.2d 1097(1984) the Court found: “[a]n unjustified delay between the commission of an offense and a defendant’s indictment therefore, which results in actual prejudice to the defendant, is a violation of the right to due process of law under Section 16, Article I of the Ohio Constitution and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

An unjustified delay in the commencement of a prosecution occurs when the state, “through negligence or error in judgment, effectively ceases the active investigation of a case, but later decides to commence prosecution upon the same evidence that was available to it at the time that its active investigation was ceased.” Luck, 15 Ohio St.3d at 158, 472 N.E.2d 1097. The length of delay is a key factor in this determination. Id.

In many of these cases, the criminal defense attorney will also show that the defendant was prejudiced by the State of Ohio’s delay in pursuing the prosecution. The prejudice can include:

  1. The dissipation of evidence against the accused;
  2. The disappearance or unavailability of a witness;
  3. The loss of exculpatory evidence due to the delay.

A constitutional violation of speedy trial would require that charges are dismissed. If the prosecutor for the State of Ohio does not begin the prosecution with reasonable diligence, then the defense should move the Court to dismiss the charges as required by Ohio’s Revised Code Section 2901.13(A)(1)(b).

Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Speedy Trial in Ohio

Your criminal defense attorney in Columbus, Ohio, can file a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of a Speedy Trial. The motion demands that the Court dismiss the charges pending against the defendant pursuant to R.C. 2901.13, Section 16, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, and the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The First District Court of Appeals has defined “reasonable diligence” as compliance with Crim.R. 4(D), which clearly states that a warrant is executed by an arrest or summons. State v. Greer, 2 Ohio App.3d 399, 400, 442 N.E.2d 473 (1981).

Finding an Attorney for Speedy Trial Cases in Columbus, OH

The criminal defense attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm understand the importance of the statute of limitations and the right to a speedy trial in criminal misdemeanor cases. We can help you determine if the statute of limitations is applicable, when you should demand a speedy trial, and when you should continue your case for a strategical reason.

Call us to discuss your case. We can begin your defense today.