A criminal conviction, even if it occurred years ago, may prevent someone from landing a job, securing a loan, or finding a place to live.
From 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, volunteer lawyers from a number of legal-service organizations will be downtown to help people who qualify complete the forms to apply to get their records sealed. The free legal advice clinic will be at Ohio Means Jobs, 1301 Monroe St.
“I tell people: If they qualify, the judges love to grant them. It’s one of the two or three nice things that happen in court,” said Pat Intagliata, director of the Pro Bono Legal Services Program for the Toledo Bar Association.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Dean Mandros concurred.
“It is truly one of the few occasions where people walk out feeling a little better about themselves and their situations than when they walk in,” he said. “The law is designed so that if people are eligible, they don’t have to wear the ‘scarlet letter’ to the end of their days.”
Still, Judge Mandros said, he has denied motions to seal criminal records, most recently one for an over-the-road truck driver who applied to have his vehicular-homicide conviction sealed.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable that that should be sealed,” the judge said.
People who may qualify to have their records sealed include: those who have two misdemeanor convictions that have been concluded for at least a year, and those with one felony and one misdemeanor conviction. At least three years must have passed since the probation or parole from the felony case was terminated.
People whose cases were dismissed or who were acquitted at trial also may qualify.
Ms. Intagliata said that applicants typically are expected to have paid any fines or costs owed to the court before their motion to have their records sealed is approved.
Ohio law is very specific about which offenses may never be sealed.
Anyone convicted of a first-degree or second-degree felony does not qualify. Any offense with a mandatory prison term does not qualify, and any violent or sexual offense also does not qualify.
Those interested in participating in the clinic are asked to bring a copy of their criminal record, which they can obtain for free from the court where they were convicted. Once they have completed the necessary forms, they will be advised to file them in that court.
“There is a $50 filing fee for every case with a conviction. If there was no conviction, they can’t charge you,” Ms. Intagliata said, adding that low-income people may file a motion to suspend costs.
In Lucas County, the probation department typically contacts applicants before preparing a report for the court. Once that’s done, the applicant will get a court date to appear before a judge.
Ms. Intagliata holds record-sealing clinics at 1 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month — an event she likes to call “Second Chance Tuesday.” This Tuesday, though, she expects to have the assistance of 20 or so attorneys who are volunteering their time.
In addition to the Toledo Bar Association, sponsors include the Ohio State Bar Association’s Litigation Section, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality and Legal Aid of Western Oho Pro Bono Program, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.