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Expanded Ability to Expunge Prior Convictions

Published: Nov 18, 2020 by Brandon Smith

On November 5, 2020, the Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth Appellate District, issued a decision that expanded access to sealing records of convictions to a new category of offender.

Generally speaking, records of convictions may be sealed if the offender has been convicted of no more than five fourth- or fifth-degree felonies, no more than a single third-degree felony, no more than two misdemeanors, or no more than one misdemeanor and one felony. In some circumstances, offenses based on the same conduct may only count as a single offense. Minor Misdemeanor offenses–often thought of as “citations” or “ticket” offenses–are not counted toward the limit on convictions.

In this case, State of Ohio v. T.S., 2020-Ohio-5182, T.S. had a single third-degree felony conviction, a single first-degree misdemeanor conviction, and two violations that are fourth-degree misdemeanors under Cleveland municipal law, but are minor misdemeanors under state law.

Because the convictions were fourth-degree misdemeanors under Cleveland municipal law, the county prosecutor argued that T.S. was ineligible for sealing–he had only a single felony, but he had multiple misdemeanors.

The Court disagreed. Because a similarly-situated individual who had been convicted of the same offenses under state law would be eligible for sealing of the records, the Court determined that T.S. must also be eligible. The disparate treatment of T.S. and other similarly-situated individuals violated the Equal Protection Clause because the distinction had no rational basis and furthered no legitimate governmental interest.

If you have been convicted of an offense under a municipal ordinance, you should consider contacting the experienced attorneys at Graff & McGovern, LPA to determine whether you are eligible to have your conviction sealed.