When Julie was younger, she had a wild and rebellious side. If her parents disapproved of a guy, then he was the one that she dated. If they didn’t like the friends she hung out with, she was all the more determined to run with the wrong crowd. Some of her girlfriends enjoyed the thrill that they got from stealing items at the local mall. All, including Julie, had enough money to buy the things that they stole; it was simply more fun and exciting to shoplift.
Julie was one month past her eighteenth birthday when she was arrested for stealing make up at Target. Since she did not think that shoplifting was a big deal, she didn’t bother hiring a lawyer. Julie went to court and pled guilty to the offense. The judge gave her a suspended thirty day jail sentence, fined her, and ordered that she stay out of Target.
Six months later, Julie moved into her first apartment with two of her girlfriends. The first weekend they were in their new place, they threw a house warming party. Fifteen of their friends showed up, armed with lots of alcohol and a high powered sound system. The alcohol flowed freely and the music blared loudly throughout the evening. At about 2:00 a.m. there was a loud knock at the door. Julie answered and was met by two police officers. They told Julie that several neighbors had called complaining about the loud music, and that she needed to turn it down. Julie responded that it was her house and she could do what she pleased. The officers then asked for her identification. After fumbling in her purse for five minutes she produced her driver’s license. The officers commented that although Julie was only eighteen years old, it appeared that she had been drinking. To this Julie replied “Get out of my house, I’m a big girl, and can do whatever I want!”
Julie was found guilty of underage consumption of alcohol, and disorderly conduct. The prior thirty day suspended jail sentence was imposed, but Julie was released after spending the weekend in jail. The remaining 28 days of her sentence was suspended and she was placed on probation for two years, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, and pay a fine and court costs. The judge now had Julie’s undivided attention. She faithfully completed all of her requirements and was released from probation after eight months. Julie found some new friends, stopped drinking, at least to excess, and paid for everything that she picked up at the store.
Four years later, Julie had a degree in finance, a new husband, and her first child on the way; time to find a job. Julie wanted to work in retail management. Her grades had been excellent, she had a charismatic personality, and interviewed extremely well. After five interviews, it was clear that Julie had a problem. All of the prospective employers were initially enthusiastic about hiring her, until they completed a criminal background check. The response was uniform: “We think that you would be a great manager, but you would have access to a large amount of money. We cannot hire someone in this position who has been convicted of a theft offense.”
Ohio law gives some individuals with arrests or criminal convictions, a second chance. Under certain circumstances one may have his or her record sealed or expunged. This means that the record of arrest or conviction is unavailable to most who would seek to view them. This would include most potential employers except in high security occupations, such as law enforcement.
A little more than a year ago, Julie would have been out of luck. However, effective September 28, 2012, the Ohio Legislature liberalized the law for sealing or expunging a record of arrest and/or conviction. Prior to that date, one could have his record sealed if he had one felony or one misdemeanor conviction. Under the new law, a person is eligible for Expungement if they have been arrested or convicted of one felony and one misdemeanor, or two misdemeanor offenses. Certain offenses cannot be expunged. Crimes that carry mandatory prison sentences, first and second degree felonies, many sex offenses, offenses where the victim is under the age of eighteen, and offenses of violence, excluding misdemeanor assault are not eligible for Expungement. Also, drunken driving convictions and certain other serious traffic crimes cannot be expunged from ones record.
Julie has three convictions, so how can she be eligible to have her record sealed? The new law provides that when two or more convictions result from or are connected with the same act or result from offenses committed at the same time, they shall be counted as one conviction. Julies’ convictions for underage consumption of alcohol and disorderly conduct would fit into this category and count as only one conviction. Thus, with her prior shoplifting (petty theft) charge, Julie is considered to have two misdemeanor convictions, and is eligible for Expungement. One year after one has completed all sentencing requirements resulting from the misdemeanor conviction or three years for a felony conviction, one may apply to the sentencing court to have his or her record sealed.
Many courts have made the process of seeking an Expungement “user friendly” and one may not require the services of an attorney to complete the process. Of course, you are still free to retain an attorney to help with your Expungement if you prefer not to go it on your own. In any event, it may not be necessary to be saddled with a criminal record even if you, like Julie, had to learn to be a responsible, law abiding citizen the hard way.