« Federal judge denies Elizabeth Holmes motion to remain free pending her appeal of fraud convictions | Main | Another federal judge finds Second Amendment violation in federal law criminalizing marijuana users from gun possession »

April 11, 2023

"Is Expanding Eligibility Enough?: Improving Record Sealing Access and Transparency in Ohio Courts"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new report authored by Jana Hrdinova and now available via SSRN. (Through my work at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, I was able to review a prior draft of this important paper about record sealing data.)  Here is the paper's abstract:

The collateral consequences stemming from a criminal conviction are far reaching and long-lasting, affecting people’s ability to obtain housing, diminishing employment opportunities, and limiting educational attainment.  In the last decade, some research has shown that record sealing and record expungement can have significant benefits for individuals through increased economic prosperity and for communities through reduced recidivism.  Unfortunately, research also indicates that in states that require individuals to file a petition to get their record sealed, only a small percentage of eligible individuals take advantage of this remedy.

Over the last decade, the Ohio General Assembly significantly broadened eligibility criteria for record sealing and expungement.  But whether laws focused solely on broadening eligibility have a significant impact on record sealing utilization remains an understudied topic.  The data from our research indicates a 55% increase in the number of granted record sealing applications in the state of Ohio from 2011 to 2021, but also suggests a relatively low rate of uptake when compared to the potential pool of eligible residents.  Additionally, we report on the lack of jurisdiction specific data resulting in inability to compare utilization rate across jurisdictions, as well as lack of accurate and up to date information about eligibility criteria and record sealing forms on court websites. In conclusion we provide a set of recommendations for addressing identified challenges.

April 11, 2023 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


Doug: You and your readers may find it interesting that under Kentucky law, a Governor's pardon for a crime does not entitle the defendant to have his indictment and convictions expunged. See, Harscher v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 327 S.W.3d 519 (Ky. App. 2010). In Kentucky, Governor's pardons granted after 1975 (or so) do not restore the defendant's gun rights; but pardons granted before 1975 did restore gun rights. Defendant Harscher had a 1958 felony conviction that was pardoned in the early 1970s. Despite his pardon and the restoration of his gun rights, he still could not pass a Federal firearms background check to purchase a gun, because his indictment and convictions showed up in the NCIC computer. To solve his problem, Harscher filed to have his indictment and conviction expunged. The Circuit Judge granted his petition, but on appeal by the Commonwealth's Attorney, the Court of Appeals reversed. Under Kentucky law, a Governor's pardon does away with the sentences and the legal consequences of an indictment and conviction, but it does not eliminate the fact of conviction itself. This is quite different than the effect of a pardon issued by the President for a Federal criminal conviction, which eliminates the crime and conviction, as though they had never occurred.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 11, 2023 10:38:42 PM

With the addition of a true expungement mechanism in Ohio, in addition to "sealing" you would think the state would allow for current ineligible offenses to be sealed after significant time has elapsed e.g. 20 plus years. With sealing, the records are still there and accessible by legal authorities and other jurisdictions, courts would still be required to review facts, and with current repeating offender statistics, this truly supports that some of the continued ineligible offenses are very unlikely to offend again. For example, if a parent was convicted of a non-sexual offense of a victim under the age of 13 (F3 and below) and decades have passed, and that parent has successfully raised additional children since the incident, lived a successful and respectful life sense, why should their past continue to be a shadow? Sealing doesn't delete the conviction, and it is still present if the offender seeks employment in positions that must be sensitive to these types of convictions. Sealing protects public's interest, whereas expungement would completely remove and not protect public's interest. If the offender is not incarcerated, and has not offended for several decades, why should they continue to be prevented from having opportunities for a successful life without barriers? You want to be fully equitable with this reliefs, then make the process equitable for all offenses, and leverage the mechanisms effectively that can still protect the public. Especially since majority of Employers only look 7-10 years back.....

Posted by: Joe | May 17, 2023 7:02:02 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB