You were charged with a criminal offense. You maintained your innocence. You fought the charge. The criminal complaint or indictment was dismissed, or you went to trial and were found not guilty. Job well done. A huge burden has been lifted. Is it time to put it past you and get on with your life? Not quite yet.
In today’s day and age, many clerks of court offices have created websites listing all of the cases, both civil and criminal, that have been filed in their respective courts. Most of these websites are free and accessible to the public. All you need is a person’s name, and you can search and see any and all cases to which a person has been a party.
Many employers conduct online records searches of the local courts where an individual resides prior to making a decision to hire that person. Although a not-guilty finding or dismissal looks much, much better than a conviction, is there a system in place for removing your name from the clerk of court’s website to prevent the public from knowing that you were ever charged in the first place? Fortunately, the answer is YES.
Most people are familiar with the concept of obtaining the Sealing of the Record of Conviction for first-time (and in some cases, second-time) criminal offenders, pursuant to Revised Code 2953.32. This is commonly referred to as an “expungement.”
However, people are less familiar with Revised Code 2953.32, which is entitled, Sealing of Records After Not Guilty Finding, Dismissal of Proceedings or No Bill by Grand Jury. In the words of the statute, “Any person who is found not guilty of an offense by a jury or a court or who is the defendant named in a dismissed complaint, indictment, or information, may apply to the court for an order to seal the person’s official records in the case. Except as provided in section 2953.61 of the Revised Code, the application may be filed at any time after the finding of not guilty or the dismissal of the complaint, indictment, or information is entered upon the minutes of the court or the journal, whichever entry occurs first.”
The court is not required to grant every request filed under this statute and must set each request for a hearing. The prosecutor will have the opportunity to object to the request. At the hearing, the court must (1) determine whether criminal proceedings are pending against the person and (2) weigh the interests of the person in having the official records pertaining to the case sealed against the legitimate needs, if any, of the government to maintain those records.
Although obtaining a dismissal or not guilty finding may be the most important thing on your mind, this is just the first step towards cleaning up the damage that has already been done to your reputation. A very important “next step” in putting this matter behind you is to have your record sealed. Although certain government agencies and licensing bodies may still have access to sealed records, the process removes such records from public access.
If you have more questions about what to do after having a criminal case dismissed, contact the experienced team of attorneys at Horwitz & Horwitz today.