Expungement of Records
Expungement of Adult Criminal Records
Expungement is the sealing of a criminal record (convictions, acquittals, dismissals, etc.). If your record is expunged, you don’t have to tell people that you have been convicted, arrested, or charged when you apply for most jobs or housing. However, your expunged convictions can still be seen by certain employers and law enforcement agencies, and your fingerprints will not be sealed. The expungement process can take six to eight months. It is up to a judge whether to grant your request.
Eligibility for Expungement of Convictions
- Expungement of convictions is only for eligible offenders with no charges pending and no arrest warrants. If two or more convictions are connected with the same act, they may count as one conviction. Three offenses that occurred within a 90-day period and were tried at the same time may count as one conviction.
- People who have committed certain crimes are not eligible for expungement. Those crimes include, but are not limited to, sexual crimes, first or second degree felonies, crimes committed while armed, felonies involving a minor (except for non-payment of support), convictions with a mandatory prison term, motor vehicle crimes (including DUIs), and crimes of violence except for a simple misdemeanor assault.
- For felony convictions, you must wait at least three years from the time you are off probation, parole or straight release and after all court costs and any fines, restitution or community service have been paid or completed. However, if all you have left to pay are court costs (you’ve paid your restitution and fines), you might qualify for expungement.
- For misdemeanor convictions, you must wait at least one year from the time you were convicted and after all court costs and any fines, restitution or community service have been paid or completed. However, if all you have left to pay are court costs (you’ve paid your restitution and fines), you might qualify for expungement.
Eligibility for Sealing Records other than Convictions
- You do not have to be a first-time offender to get a dismissal, finding of not guilty (acquittal) or nolle sealed from your record. There is no waiting period. You can apply right away. However, if you have more than one conviction, the court may not seal the record.
- If you were indicted and the grand jury returned a no bill, you must wait two years to file. You do not have to be a first-time offender to file.
- If you successfully completed a Diversion Completion or Treatment in Lieu of Incarceration program, there is no waiting period. You can apply right away.
- If you were arrested and released (no court was involved), you do not need to file for expungement or record sealing with the court. You can write a letter to the chief of police or head of the law enforcement agency that arrested you and request that he or she remove or seal your arrest record. You do not have to be a first-time offender to request this. However, whether your request is approved is up to the discretion of the chief.
Getting Help with Expungement
You file your motion for expungement in the court where you were charged. For example, if you were charged with a felony in Cuyahoga County, your expungement paperwork would be filed with the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts. Make sure you keep a copy of all paperwork that you complete.
Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts
1200 Ontario St. 2nd Floor
Cleveland, OH 44113
Does not provide legal assistance or forms for expungement. Remember to ask them about filing a “Poverty Affidavit” form. This form requests that the court waive the filing fee, which is usually $50. It is recommended that you file for expungement with the help of an attorney. If you cannot afford one, you may be able to get help from the following organizations.
Cuyahoga County Public Defender
310 Lakeside Ave. Ste. 400
Cleveland, OH 44113
Information: Helps people complete the paperwork to expunge convictions from cases processed through Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. This office will help determine if your offense is eligible for expungement. In most cases, you file the paperwork “pro se” (on your own – without an attorney). However, if you successfully completed a diversion or selective intervention program, they may actually be able to represent you. Walk in for assistance or call and they will mail you a packet. Once forms are completed, you will be directed about how and where to file.
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
1223 W 6th St.
Cleveland, OH 44113
Evaluates requests to seal arrest and criminal records from courts or law enforcement in a five county service area (Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties). Applicants who need to seal a felony record from Cuyahoga County should apply at the public defender office. Income must be at or below agency guidelines. For example, as of 2015: Household of 1 = $23,540 annual or $1,961.67 monthly; household of 4 = $48,500 annual or $4,041.67 monthly. Also holds brief legal advice clinics; see schedule for dates, times, and locations: at http://lasclev.org/events/category/brief-advice-clinics/
Does not handle criminal cases, contingency fee cases such as personal injury or medical malpractice, and cannot assist persons who are currently incarcerated.
Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
If you don’t qualify for free help, you can contact the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association to get a referral to an attorney.
Keysource Legal Document Service Corp.
Reviews legal documents. Helps individuals obtain and complete documents/ forms. Fixed fee for first appointment and then offers low-cost assistance if needed.
North Star Neighborhood Reentry Resource Center
1834 E 55th St.
Cleveland, OH 44103
Information: Offers legal clinics to help participants expunge or seal their criminal records.
The following websites may help you better understand the expungement process.
Ohio Legal Services
The Cleveland Law Library Association
Click on the Frequently Asked Questions link
Expungement and Sealing of Juvenile Records
You file for expungement or sealing in the court where your case was handled. In Cuyahoga County, this would be the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court. Expungement means that your record is destroyed and it is like you never had one. Sealing means that your record is “hidden” and that most people/organizations cannot see your record, but there are some exceptions.
- If your case was dismissed, or you were found not delinquent, you would apply to have your record expunged.
- If you were found to be delinquent, unruly or a juvenile traffic offender, you would apply to have your record sealed. You have to wait at least six months from the termination of the court order or your unconditional discharge from the Ohio Department of Youth Services in order to apply. There is a fee.
- After your record has been sealed, it will automatically be expunged after a five-year period or upon your 23rd birthday (whichever comes first). However, you can apply to have your record expunged at any time after it is sealed. If you are already 23 when your record is approved to be sealed, it will automatically be expunged.
- You cannot seal records for the following crimes: rape, gross sexual imposition, sexual battery, aggravated murder and murder. In some cases, a conviction for gross sexual imposition may be sealed in cases where the offender is able to lower their tier through therapy.
- It is recommended that you seek assistance from an attorney.
For information or applications for Cuyahoga County cases contact:
Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court
Clerk’s Office - Expungement Unit
9300 Quincy Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44106