Record sealing and expungement can be an important process when it comes to achieving post-conviction goals like employment. These two terms are often confused, but are in fact two very different processes. This is an important distinction for Ohio, because this state offers record sealing but not expungement.
According to Ohio Revised Code 2151.355, to expunge is to destroy, delete, and erase a record so that the record is permanently irretrievable, while to seal a record is to remove it from the main file and place it in a secured file. This secured file is then only accessible by law enforcement or other legal entities specified in ORC 2953.32.
Due to Ohio’s punitive stance on OVI (known as DUI in other states) and related offenses, an OVI conviction is not eligible for record sealing under ORC 2953.36. The only OVI conviction that has the possibility of being sealed is an OVUAC, and then only by a judge. This makes pretrial strategies and motions all the more important when it comes to your OVI arrest. Depending on your case, hiring a qualified Ohio OVI defense attorney immediately after your arrest could give you an advantage when it comes to pretrial meetings, motions to dismiss, and protecting your rights.
Knowing you are ineligible for record sealing can be discouraging, especially when it comes to finding a job. If you have not yet been convicted of an OVI and feel strongly that the court will dismiss your case or find you innocent, you can take heart in the fact that under ORC 2953.52 all arrests and charges that do not result in a conviction are eligible for sealing. If you have already been convicted of OVI or a related offense such as vehicular assault, there are still important employment considerations provided to you by Ohio Senate Bill 337 which went into effect on September 28, 2012.
Though SB 337 doesn’t change the fact that your misdemeanor or felony OVI offense can’t be sealed or expunged, it does provide essential considerations for your future. First of all, under this bill you may be eligible to find or regain employment your conviction previously disqualified you from. This is because the bill did the following
• Created a Certificate of Qualification for Employment that will remove disqualifications from certain occupational licenses
• Lifted certain occupational license restrictions
• Reduced collateral sanctions for people with felonies
Additionally, should you face another unrelated conviction down the road, the OVI conviction won’t bar you from having that offense sealed later. The extent of what Senate Bill 337 can do for OVI cases is still being worked out by legal counsel and judges on a case-by-case basis, so some form of legal guidance in the process is recommended.