Cleveland Expungement Lawyer

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Cleveland Expungement Attorney

The expungement process is how a person’s criminal records are cleared and sealed. Northeast Ohio expungement attorney Matthew C. Bangerter, ESQ. focuses on representing clients facing state and federal criminal charges, and as such, he is well-versed in criminal court procedures and the expungement process, and can easily help with your expungement procedure.

If you have been charged with a crime – whether or not you were convicted or the case was dismissed contact the Cleveland criminal defense attorney Matthew Bangerter at (440) 340-1740 to discuss a possible expungement of your criminal records.

What Is The Expungement Attorney Process?

Expungement is a court proceeding whereby any and all references to a prior criminal conviction are cleared and the court file is sealed so that the end result is as if there were never a conviction of the crime. Some states have separate legal proceedings for an expungement procedure and the sealing of records, but in Ohio, removal of the conviction from your record and the sealing of the record are completed in the same court proceeding.

What Convictions Can Be Expunged?

In Ohio, the expungement process can remove the following from your record:

  • Charges filed against you
  • Charges filed against you, but later dismissed
  • Charges that resulted in a verdict of not guilty
  • Charges that resulted in an acquittal
  • Charges that resulted in a criminal conviction
  • No bills by grand jury
  • Bail forfeitures

What Happens Following The Expungement Process?

If the court grants an order expunging and sealing your criminal records, the charges and/or convictions will essentially be removed from your record. An expungement order prohibits government officials from discussing, disclosing, or reporting your arrest, indictment, trial, conviction, or sentence.

What Is The Process For Obtaining An Expungement Order?

In order to have your criminal case expunged and sealed, you must file an Application for Expungement and Sealing of Record. After the application is filed, the court will order an expungement hearing pursuant to Ohio Expungement Statute, O.R.C. 2953.32 and O.R.C. 2953.52. At the hearing, the court will consider a variety of factors to determine whether to grant the expungement order and the prosecution may provide arguments against the granting of an expungement.

What About My Gun Rights?

A successful expungement procedure does restore your right to own a firearm. However, in situations where a person is not eligible for expungement, you must file an Application For Relief From Disability in accordance with section 2923.14 of the Ohio Revised Code. Northeast Ohio expungement attorney Matthew C. Bangerter, ESQ. can help you through the process of restoring your right to protect yourself.

The Right Northeast Ohio Expungement Attorney For The Job

Matthew C. Bangerter, ESQ. has experience handling a wide variety of criminal defense issues, including expungement procedures. He will take the time to listen to your concerns and guide you through the entire expungement procedure. Not only can he file the appropriate paperwork with the court, but he will advocate on your behalf at your expungement hearing. If an expungement is granted, he will ensure that your criminal case is effectively removed from all public records.

If you have been charged with a crime — whether you were convicted or the case was dismissed — Northeast Ohio expungement attorney Matthew C. Bangerter, ESQ. can help. Click here for an initial consultation. Call (440) 306-3205 to start planning your defense.

What Exactly is An Expungement?

I would first like to clarify that sealing a record and expungement are two different things. Both expungement and sealing make the person’s record invisible. Sealing a record places the record under seal, so that although most people will not be able to see it, the record still exists. What exactly is an expungement? Expungement actually physically destroys the record, so it no longer exists at all. In Ohio, people tend to call the process “expungement,” but in most cases, the person is applying to get a record sealed rather than expunged.

Expungement is rare, but it can be used in certain instances. For example, if a victim of human trafficking was charged with a crime as a result of that human trafficking, then that person can get their record expunged. Most people just end up having their record sealed. In that case, even though the record is sealed to most people, some agencies are always able to access a sealed record. It will still be available to most state professional licensing boards, employers for jobs working with children, Immigration and a few others. Those agencies will always be able to see that conviction.

How Does A Pardon Differ From Having The Record Sealed Or Expunged?

A pardon restores the civil rights the person might have lost when they were convicted of a crime and absolves the person of any legal consequences. Their right to vote, to serve on a jury, and their right to hold political office are all restored. It does not erase the records, so the record still exists. For example, any money or fines or restitution owed to someone are not forgiven because a person received a pardon. The pardon simply restores any rights they lost because of that conviction.

What Are The Long Term Benefits Of Sealing And Expunction?

First of all, it helps the person find a job. A lot of employers now run background checks and in todays competitive market the candidate may not get that job if there is a conviction on their record. If the record was sealed and the employer cannot see it, then there is far more opportunity for the person to move on with their life and get a good job.

Things, like going to school, educational opportunities or being in line for a promotion, could all be affected by the person having a conviction on their record. Sealing that conviction can alleviate that problem. It can also help protect the person’s general reputation if somebody from their family, friends or their neighborhood started to look at the court’s website, they would no longer be able to see the person’s record on that court’s website.

Who Is Be Eligible To File For An Expungement Or To Have A Record Sealed?

First, the offense itself must be sealable. First and second degree felonies and some other crimes are not. A person can have one felony and one misdemeanor sealed, two misdemeanors sealed, or any number of minor misdemeanors. In some cases, charges that occurred close in time may be considered as one single case.

A person applying to get a misdemeanor sealed must wait a year after the conclusion of any court involvement, meaning all fines have been paid, all community service completed, the person is off probation and there are no other cases pending in any other court for a year. For felonies, the waiting period is three years.

What Types Of Criminal Records Cannot Be Expunged?

First and second degree felonies cannot be sealed. Any crime with a mandatory prison sentence cannot be sealed. Crimes of violence cannot be sealed, with the exception of misdemeanor assault. Domestic violence, sex crimes, any crime with a child victim, OVIs and traffic cases are all ineligible for sealing. An OVI/DUI will be on a person’s record for life.

Does Expungement Apply To Just Convictions Or Arrests As Well?

If the person was never actually convicted, if they were arrested and charged but then found not guilty or their case was dismissed, the record of that arrest and charge can also be sealed. In that case, there is no waiting period, the person can apply immediately. There is no limit to the number of these that can be sealed, although it is ultimately up to the court to decide whether to grant the request.

What Is OVI?

OVI is Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated. Most people refer to them as DUI, Ohio just names them differently.

Visit our office for more information on what expungement is, or how sealing and pardons work, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (440) 340-1740 today.

Why Should Someone File For Expungement Or Sealing?

What’s the purpose of filing for expungement in Ohio. The biggest reason is a person’s ability to move forward after their conviction in a competitive job and educational market. Convictions will hold the person back at some point. Some people have a very difficult time finding a job with even minor convictions on their record. File for expungement or sealing the record could help with that.

Can A Simple Arrest Affect Someone Almost As Badly As A Conviction?

It can. An employer running a background check might see an arrest for something like theft or assault on the person’s record. Regardless of whether or not the person has been convicted of it, it is human nature to view that record with suspicion. It can still be a black mark in the person’s history and it could very well affect their chances of getting that job.

Does Having A Record Affect Chances Of Getting Into School Or Getting Financial Aid?

It could, although this would be up to each individual school. They could certainly run a background check. The results might keep a person from getting into that college or it might affect their current status as a student in certain programs. Getting a drug conviction can also affect a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid.

How Often Are Requests For Records To Be Sealed Actually Granted?

In my experience, these requests are almost always granted. That is no guarantee and it does not mean that it will always happen, but I have had quite good success in getting records sealed.

What Are The Short And Long Term Benefits For Having A Record Sealed?

The biggest benefit that people find and the biggest reason people come to me is employability. Most people come to me because they are having trouble finding jobs because they have a conviction on their record and nobody wants to hire them. Employment, as well as educational opportunities, are the primary benefit, but it also benefit’s the person’s reputation. If that record is sealed, most people will not be able to see or find out about it.

For more information on why to file for expungement in Ohio, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (440) 340-1740 today.

What Is The Process For Having A Criminal Charge Or Conviction Sealed?

The first thing I do is sit and talk to the person and find out what they have going on in their life, how they are doing, and what positive steps they have taken since the conviction. What is the process for having a criminal charge or conviction sealed? I take all that information and put it into an application to seal the record, which I will then file with the court. The court typically orders its own a background check. The Probation Department and the prosecutor have a chance to respond if they object to the request.

Once that is done, the court typically holds a hearing, although they can sometimes grant or deny the request without a hearing. The judge may ask the person questions about their life since conviction and any positive steps they have taken. The judge might ask why this client’s record should be sealed. I tell my clients to treat the hearing like a job interview.

Will The Person’s Criminal History Affect Chances of Sealing a Record If the Conviction Was Unrelated?

The person will not be eligible if they have a currently active case, because that still counts against the waiting period. The law says the person must not have any court involvement for one year for misdemeanors or three years for felonies. That means any court involvement at all. That wait time starts over if the person picks up a new case.

On top of that, the person may no longer be eligible if the new case ends up in a conviction. The client may now have more than the number of convictions allowable. As a practical matter, the judge who is looking at the application to sealing the record will see that the person is still picking up cases. That will typically be a strike against the applicant.

Where Should Someone Go To File The Motion For Sealing A Record?

The application needs to be filed at the court where the conviction happened.

How Long Does it Take to Seal a Record?

This varies from court to court and how busy their docket is. If the court does not have a really busy schedule, then it could all be done in a month or two, but typically closer to two. In very busy courts and in bigger cities with higher volume, it could take several months.

What Information Or Paperwork Would Be Needed?

I will prepare most of the paperwork, including the application and the motion to seal the record. In some cases, it can be helpful for the person to gather letters of recommendation, resumes, certificates, or other documents that support positive aspects of the person’s life. As for the record itself, the court will look that up. There is no need to gather any of those records.

Will The Person Have To Go To Court? How Often Can An Attorney Stand In For Their Client?

The person will only have one court appearance. It could occasionally be more than one, and sometimes the court will grant or deny without a court hearing, but one time is the norm. I have had a number of cases where the applicant now lives out of state, and the court allowed us to make that application and granted it without the person having to travel back for court. In most cases, though, the person will need to make a court appearance.

Do Multiple Offences Get Sealed With One Filing Or Does Each Crime Need Its Own Filing?

Convictions from different courts need to be filed separately in each court. Each court will charge its own filing fee. If there are multiple cases in the same court, then we can lump them together in one application, but we will still separate each case number the court will require a separate filing fee for each case.

Does Ohio Honor The Certificate Of Eligibility?

Ohio has something called the Certificate of Qualification for Employment. A lot of jobs require state issued licenses or have some legal restrictions on who is allowed to have that job. If a conviction makes a person ineligible for a particular job, then getting the Certificate of Qualification for Employment may make the person eligible for that job despite the conviction.

Can Most People Afford To Go Through The Process Of Getting Their Record Sealed?

It is affordable. The attorney will charge their fee, and there will also be a filing fee – depending on the court, typically be between $50 and $150. That cost needs to be weighed against the cost of lost job opportunities, lost education, and missed promotions. Compared to those things the cost of sealing a record is minimal. In the long term it is certainly worth the cost.

What Is The Best Way To Ensure A Charge Was Really Sealed?

If you’re worried that your sealed record still shows up, there are a few ways you can check. The best way to ensure a charge was really sealed. A number of services exist, for a small fee, will run a background check. A service like that is one option to see what still shows up on a person’s record.

Does Someone Need To Tell People They Were Convicted Of A Crime If It Has Already Been Sealed?

No.

Does The Person Need To Mention A Sealed Conviction To Anyone Other Than The Judge?

No, once a record is sealed you can legally and honestly say that the conviction, arrest or dismissed case does not exist. The exception is if the person is applying for a job that requires access to even sealed records.

How Should Someone Answer Questions If They Were Applying For A Firearm?

Certain crimes take away a person’s rights to own a firearm. In most cases, having the record sealed restores the person’s right to have firearms and they will be able to purchase one. If the person is not eligible to have a firearm or if they are not eligible to have their record sealed, there is an application process specifically for the ability to have that right restored.

I have handled a number of cases where the person was not eligible for sealing, but we were able to apply for what is called “relief from firearms disability.” Certain crimes result in a “disability” – namely, the person is no longer allowed to own a firearm. We can file an application for relief from that disability. If the court grants it, then regardless of the person’s conviction they can still own a firearm.

What Do You Do If An Employer Sees Charges That Were Supposedly Already Sealed?

In most cases when that happens it is just a matter of the paperwork not having had time to circulate to all the right agencies. Once the record is sealed and a judge has signed the order that order still needs to be sent to the agencies that maintain those databases. Sometimes there can be a delay of a month or so before it gets processed through all the right systems. In that case, it is just a matter of waiting it out.

When the record gets sealed, the person receives an order signed by the judge and certified by the clerk. The person can show that document to whoever ran the background check, because sometimes these situations do happen. It unfortunately does not undo the damage of the employer seeing it in the first place, but at least it lets them know that the person’s record has been sealed.

It is also a possibility that one of the third party vendors I mentioned earlier may have an outdated database that still contains the sealed record. We would then have to contact that vendor directly and have them remove the record.

Visit our office for more information on what happens after your record is sealed and if your sealed record still shows up, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (440) 340-1740 today.

What Are Common Reasons For A Request To Seal A Record To Be Denied?

At the time of this writing, I have never had a record seal denial. That does not mean they never get denied, but so far I have had good success. The one case I can think of that was a close call was a case where a person had a record sealed several years in the past, and we were trying to seal another conviction for the same thing. The judge really took a hard look at that. It really depends on how the person is doing since then, whether they are leading a law-abiding life, staying out of trouble and proving themselves. If that is not the case, then the judge very well might see that and deny the application. Here is you will know what are common reasons for a request to seal a record to be denied?

Can The Judge See a Sealed Charge And Consider It A Second Offense?

Yes, the judge and the court will be able to see it, along with any of the agencies that get to see through that seal. If the person gets another charge, like a second assault charge or a second theft charge, then the court or the judge will be able to see that the person has done it before. The judge will most likely take that into account when issuing a sentence.

Are Judges Actually Allowed To Take That Into Account?

Yes.

Is It Like A Slap In The Face When Someone Is Given A Second Chance And They Waste It?

Absolutely. The judge will almost certainly see it as having given the person another chance, and the person just throwing it away.

Do They Make It Harder To Have Something Sealed Again?

Yes, and in the case I mentioned earlier, the judge was very close to not granting it because the applicant had already done it once before.

What Can Someone Do If The Court Does Not Grant The Request To Seal A Record?

That would leave the same options as if the person was not eligible to have that record sealed. Either seeking a pardon or Certificate of Qualification for Employment, or withdrawing the initial plea. Pardons and plea withdrawals are rare, so in most cases the person is stuck with that conviction.

What Will Show If a Background Check Was Done on Someone Whose Record Was Sealed?

For most purposes, nothing. There would just not be a record. Some agencies will always be able to access a sealed record, but to any agencies that did not have that privilege, it will look like that conviction never existed.

Why Should Someone Hire An Experienced Attorney Versus Going It Alone?

This process can be done alone and some people do manage to do it that way, but an attorney will be able to do it faster with less chance of error. An attorney will also be able to navigate any unexpected obstacles that spring up. Someone who has no experience with this sort might run into some issues they do not know how to solve, that could affect their chances of getting that application granted.

Does The Certificate Of Actual Innocence Apply In Ohio?

There is no such thing in Ohio.

Are Certain Convictions Easier To Have Sealed Than Others?

If you’re wondering how are certain convictions easier to have sealed than others? , it does vary on your case, but it is more a matter of meeting the eligibility criteria. A more serious crime might certainly make a judge take a harder look at granting that application. A judge may not want to seal a case with bad underlying facts that shook a community, for example. Most of the time, though, it is more about how the person has been doing since then, what they have accomplished, how they have improved and whether they are now living a law abiding life.

Can The Same Type Of Conviction Or Arrest Be Sealed Twice?

Yes, a person can get the same type of conviction sealed again, as long as they are otherwise eligible, the waiting period is over, and they do not have too many convictions in total.

Can Someone Help Their Situation If They Were Not Eligible To Have A Record Sealed?

They could. If they are looking for a job that has some sort of bar because of that conviction, then we can try to get a Certificate of Qualification for Employment. There is also the option of applying for a pardon, but success tends to be pretty rare. In some cases, if the case is very old, we might actually be able to ask the court to reopen the case and perhaps modify the charge to something that we can get sealed. I have gone this route in very rare instances, and success requires a judge and a prosecutor who both agree to it.

Does The Prosecutor Have Any Say In Whether A Record Is Going To Be Sealed Or Not?

The prosecutor does have an opportunity to object to the request. In most cases they do not, but if there is case in which they had some interest, then they do have the ability to tell the judge they oppose the application. The decision ultimately ends up with the judge, but the prosecutor can let the court know whether or not they agree.

Will A Victim Of Those Criminal Charges Be Able To Affect The Court Decision?

They might. In some courts, when the Probation Department is doing the background check they will contact the victim to see if they have an opinion. In most cases, it does not really come into play, but it is a possibility.

Can Someone Apply To Have A Record Sealed If They Are On Probation For Another Case?

No, that counts as an open case and there is still court involvement, so the person needs to wait until that case and the waiting period are over either one or three years after probation ends.

Can Someone Ever Have Their Driving Record Or A Traffic Violation Sealed?

Convictions, no, they stay on the person’s record for life. That goes for anything from a speeding ticket to an OVI or a DUI. However, if any of those were dismissed without an actual conviction, then the person can have that dismissed traffic ticket or DUI/OVI sealed.

Can An Out-Of-State Charge Or Conviction Be Sealed Where I Live Now?

No. That is governed by the law of the state where the conviction happened. There is nothing that an Ohio court can do about it.

Are You Allowed To Assist With Federal Or Military Charges?

Yes and no. Federal charges cannot be sealed federally but the person can get it sealed from state databases. There are some databases that Ohio keeps and there are some databases that the federal government uses. If those federal charges were sealed in Ohio, then anyone searching those Ohio databases will not see that record outside of those people allowed access by law. On the other hand, anyone who is searching or has access to the federal level databases will still be able to see the federal conviction.

Common Misconceptions Regarding Having A Record Sealed

Probably the biggest thing in this day and age is the impact of internet. Once someone’s record is on the internet, it will be available anywhere. A number of third party vendors run their own background checks and keep their own databases independent of the State of Ohio. What are misconceptions regarding having a record sealed?

When we have a record sealed, the court will typically notify all state-run agencies to seal that record. Third party vendors should be keeping their records up to date, but it is possible they either might not maintain their records or just might not have gotten the update. That record would still come up if an employer uses that third party agency to do a background check. However, if that does happen, we can contact that agency and make them remove it.

There are also third party services that keep track of all the independent background check companies. When a record is sealed, the person can use that service to try to catch all of those but again, with the internet there is no guarantee that a new background check company would not have popped up in the meantime.

Are Any Convictions Automatically Sealed Or Dropped Off Of A Record?

No. In juvenile cases, we can apply to seal a juvenile record. If that is successful, the record will automatically be expunged, either five years after it was sealed or when the person turns twenty-three. This is the only automatic expungement, although the person would still have to apply to have that record sealed in the first place. No adult charges are automatically expunged.

Will The Person Be In The Clear If They Researched Themselves And Nothing Came Up?

Not necessarily. Just Googling oneself is not be enough. If someone knows they have a conviction on their record, then chances are it is still out there somewhere. It may be in a state database that Google does not have access to, or if it may be stored somewhere that requires permission from the law enforcement to access. If an employer wants to run a background check, it will do something more thorough than just Googling a prospective employee’s name. The best way to be sure is to actually have the court seal the record.

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