The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that records previously sealed by a Butler County judge must be reopened due to the judge's failure to meet all necessary legal requirements. The records concerned an Ohio University student charged with disorderly for posting a flier that read "Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape."
The student pled guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in November 2012 under the belief that his case records would be "sealed" – made inaccessible to the public. The court form he completed referenced an Ohio law for record sealing in cases where there is no conviction, rather than in cases where there is a conviction.
The judge admitted that he referenced the wrong section of Ohio law, and vacated the record sealing so that the defendant could withdraw his guilty plea. Once the conviction was set aside, the court resealed his records.
In Ohio, record sealing is possible for both cases with a conviction and without a conviction. Ohio Revised Code § 2953.52 deals with non-convictions and § 2953.32 deals with expungement of conviction cases. In an investigation, it was discovered that this particular judge made this mistake in a number of other misdemeanor cases.
How Records Are Sealed in Conviction Cases
Conviction cases are those cases in which a defendant is charged with a crime and either pleads guilty to those charges OR goes to trial and is found guilty.
Someone who is convicted of their charges may apply for record clearing to the court that sentenced them. Eligible defendants:
- Cannot have more than one felony conviction
- Cannot have more than two misdemeanor convictions
- Cannot have more than one felony and one misdemeanor conviction
- Must show proof to the court of rehabilitation
How Records Are Sealed in Non-Conviction Cases
Non-conviction cases are any cases in which charges were filed, but the charges were dismissed OR the defendant went to trial and was found not guilty. The judge in this case cited this statute, although the defendant was actually convicted of the offense. The judge failed to follow proper procedure, so the Supreme Court ordered the records to be reopened.
For more on this story, read Supreme Court Orders Reopening of Sealed Records in Rape-Flier Case.