Q: I’ve heard that Ohio
law now makes it easier for criminals to turn their lives around. How?
A: Ohio’s Senate Bill
337, effective September 28, 2012, includes a variety of changes to the
criminal justice system that are designed to make it easier for people who get
into trouble to move on with their lives. Two of the bill’s provisions are
outlined in this article: 1) the
creation of “certificates for qualification of employment” for individuals
convicted of certain criminal offenses and 2) changes in the laws governing the
sealing of criminal records. Other criminal justice system changes provided by
this new law, but not covered in this article include: a decrease in the
penalty for illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia; changes to
juvenile law and court procedures; changes regarding child support
determinations; and changes in penalties for driving under suspension.
Q: What is a “certificate
for qualification of employment”?
A: An individual who has been prohibited from getting certain
employment or occupational licensing as a result of a guilty plea or conviction
for a criminal offense now may be able to get a certificate of qualification
for employment. With some exceptions, this certificate lifts the automatic bar
of employment or occupational licensing (known as a “collateral sanction”) that
may otherwise result from a criminal conviction. The process for getting a
certificate for qualification of employment requires a decision-maker to
consider on a case-by-case basis whether to grant or deny an occupational
license or employment opportunity.
collateral sanction may mean, for example, that the offender could get a
license restored to return to work. If, however, the offender commits a felony
offense after getting a “certificate of qualification for employment,” the
certificate may be revoked.
law would not eliminate a barrier to
employment for someone whose prior conviction is directly related to an
occupation (for example, someone who was convicted of check fraud and then
applies for a job at a bank).
Q: How do I get a
“certificate for qualification of employment”?
A: After you have been released from jail or prison following a
guilty plea or conviction for a criminal offense, you can petition for a
“certificate for qualification of employment.” In the petition, you must
include specific information and file it either directly with the court of
common pleas where you live or with the deputy director or other representative
of the Division of Parole and Community Services of the Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC-PCS). If your petition is complete, the
DRC-PCS will forward it to the court. For the petition to be granted, you must
show that you have a “substantial need” for the relief to live a law-abiding
life and that granting the petition will materially assist you in getting employment
or occupational licensing. In addition, you must demonstrate to the court that
granting the petition will not pose an unreasonable risk to the safety of the
public or any individual.
Q: When may I apply for a
“certificate for qualification of employment”?
A: If you committed a felony offense, you may file a petition
for a certificate after one year from the date of your release from incarceration
or your final release from all other sanctions imposed for that offense. If you
committed a misdemeanor offense, you may file a petition for a certificate
after six months from your release from incarceration or your final release from
all sanctions imposed for that offense including any period of supervision.
Q: Is it possible for me
to have my criminal record sealed?
A: If you are an “eligible offender” (meaning you have not been
convicted of more than one felony offense, two misdemeanor offenses if the
convictions are not for the same offense, or more than one felony and one
misdemeanor offense in Ohio or any other jurisdiction), this law allows your
criminal record to be sealed. “Sealing” means that, if you qualify, any record
of your previous offense will no longer be public and cannot be seen by
potential employers or others. Before this
law was passed, only “first offenders” could have their records sealed.
However, this change in the law does
not mean that every “eligible offender” can have records sealed. Before your record
is sealed, a hearing must be held and the probation officer or county department
of probation must make certain inquiries about you, including an inquiry about
any child support obligations you may have.
Q: Where can I get more
information and find out about other provisions of this law?
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar
Association (OSBA). Articles appearing in this column are intended to
provide broad, general information about the law. For information about a
variety of legal topics, visit the OSBA website at www.ohiobar.org. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers
are urged to seek advice from an attorney.
Labels: criminals, employees, employment