Completing the application
If you are eligible to seal your records, you will need to get the sealing application forms from the court where you were charged. Check the court's website for the forms, or call the Clerk of Court's office to ask where you can find them.
The court may have different packets to seal convictions and non-convictions, so make sure that you're filling out the right ones. Ask the court how many copies of the form they want you to file, and make at least one extra copy of the form so you can keep one for your records.
Carefully read the form and any instructions. Some courts require you to "serve," or send the forms to the prosecutor's office. Some courts will serve the prosecutor's office for you. Read the form carefully and complete all the steps included on the form.
Take the completed form to the Clerk's office at the court where the charge was filed.
There is no fee to seal a dismissal or a not guilty or no bill charge. If you apply to seal a conviction, there is a filing fee. The filing fee cannot be more than $50, no matter how many cases you want to seal. If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you can use the "Poverty Affidavit" form to request to file without paying the fee upfront.
Attend the hearing
After you file your application, the court schedules a hearing date that is 45-90 days after the filing date. The prosecutor may file a written objection. Your case is still considered even if the prosecutor objects. You must go to your sealing hearing.
You must attend the hearing, where you and the prosecutor will present your sides. At the hearing, explain how your criminal record is hurting you. Examples of common problems your record might be giving you include making it hard to find a job or to find a place to live.
The judge has to decide whether you have been rehabilitated before sealing your record. If the prosecutor objects, the judge will also consider whether it is in the public interest for your record to be sealed. So, be prepared for the judge to ask you what you have been doing since you were charged or convicted and why you want your record sealed.
Show the judge that you have made changes in your life since your conviction. Give as many specific examples as you can. For instance, if you were convicted of a drug-related crime, you should mention any substance abuse treatment you completed. You may describe going to therapy, removing yourself from negative relationships or taking other steps.
The judge or magistrate will make the final decision about sealing your record after listening to both you and the prosecutor. Learn more about how to prepare for a hearing here.
After the hearing
If the judge denies your application and you do not understand why, you may want to speak with a lawyer.
If the judge approves your application, it can take at least six weeks for the court, police and other agencies to seal the record.
Talking to a lawyer
Many legal aids in Ohio offer record sealing clinics where you can talk to a pro bono lawyer about your charges and how to apply for sealing.
If your criminal record is keeping you from getting a professional certification (for example, people with certain convictions cannot obtain certain medical certifications in Ohio) legal aid may also be able to help you obtain a Certificate for Qualification of Employment (CQE). Read more about CQEs here.
The Ohio Justice and Policy Center also offer clinics and provides detailed information on sealing and other ways to overcome problems caused by criminal records on their website. These include options for survivors of human trafficking, people with juvenile records, CQEs and Governor's pardons.