MarchReport-toFlip - page 8

O
hio law allows for the expungement of convictions
for federal offenses, although many individuals with
federal convictions are unaware that they may also
be entitled to this benefit. Expungement provides the path to a
clean slate for many individuals with aging convictions on their
records. Similar to a marriage that is annulled, a conviction that
is expunged is treated as if it never occurred.
Ohio Revised Code §2953.32(A)(1) provides that:
“An eligible offender may apply to the sentencing court
if convicted in this state, or to a court of common pleas
if convicted in another state or in a federal court, for the
sealing of the record of the case that pertains to the con-
viction. Application may be made at the expiration of
three years after the offender’s final discharge if convicted
of a felony, or at the expiration of one year after the of-
fender’s final discharge if convicted of a misdemeanor.”
The State of Ohio has provided, in §2953.32(A)(1) a method
by which a federal conviction, or conviction in another state,
may be sealed under Ohio law.
Expungement of federal convictions is generally governed
by the same rules as expungement of state-law convictions. That
is, a person is eligible for expungement of a conviction (state or
federal) if he or she has:
(a) not more than one felony conviction,
(b) not more than two misdemeanor convictions if the
convictions are not of the same offense, or
(c) not more than one felony conviction and one misde-
meanor conviction.
In counting convictions for purposes of determining eligi-
bility for expungement, two or more related convictions may be
counted as one. For example, two or more convictions arising
from the same act or resulting from offenses committed at the
same time are counted as one conviction. Similarly, up to three
convictions that were charged or imposed at the same time and
resulted from related criminal acts that were committed within
a three-month period are counted as one conviction. Minor
misdemeanors and most traffic offenses do not count at all and
may be expunged regardless of how many of them an individual
has on his record.
Ohio’s expungement statute provides that an expunged
conviction does not need to be reported on an application for
employment, any type of license, or any other right or privilege,
and, with limited exceptions, actually prohibits employers and
others from even asking questions about an expunged con-
viction during any such application process. For that reason,
expungement can remove barriers for individuals seeking new
career opportunities, housing, membership in professional
organizations, and other benefits. It also provides an ex-offender
with the personal satisfaction of seeking closure to a trying
phase of his life.
There are important limitations on the ability to have a
federal conviction expunged that do not apply to state convic-
tions. Because of the Supremacy Clause of the United States
Constitution, an Ohio court cannot order the sealing of records
in the custody of federal courts, agencies, or officials. Nor can an
Ohio court order the sealing of records kept by the state if the
state maintains or uses those records pursuant to federal law.
Outside of those limitations, Ohio courts have held that it does
Expungement of
Federal Convictions:
An Under-Utilized Remedy
By W. Kelly Johnson and Jared M. Klaus
8
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March 2016 CBA REPORT
Feature Article
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