Have you ever been denied new employment due to an old conviction of a criminal offense?
If your application has been denied under the previous Ohio expungement law, you may be eligible to have your convictions sealed under the new Ohio law. Prior convictions which were not eligible to be sealed in the past may now be able to be sealed due to a revision of Ohio laws. Senate Bill 337, which was passed earlier this year widens the scope of the amount of criminal convictions that a person is eligible to have sealed.
Ohio's sealing of criminal conviction statutes are found in O.R.C. 2953.31, and 2953.32. These new laws are effective October 29, 2018 and amends previous sections O.R.C. Sections 2953.31 and 2953.32. The actual effect is that the physical file and any references to your conviction are removed from the court records and the records of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). Another result from an expungement is that you are entitled by law to answer "NO" if anyone asks if you have a conviction. Anyone who checks the court or BCI records, would find no record of your sealed conviction.
Under the new law, a person may now obtain an expungement even if they have a previous expungement from a prior criminal conviction. A person may be eligible for an expungement for up to five felonies of the fourth or fifth degree in any state, as long as they are not violent felonies or a felony sex offense. However, under the new law, a person is also eligible to have additional non-violent and non-sex offense related misdemeanors sealed.
For example, under the old law, a person who had a fourth degree felony sealed, then was later convicted of another fourth or fifth degree felony, the person would not be eligible for expungement of the subsequent conviction. Under the new law, the subsequent conviction would be eligible for expungement.
While the new law increases the number of offenses that can be sealed, it also increases the amount of time a person must wait before applying to have felonies sealed.
Under the old law, the waiting period to have any eligible felony conviction sealed was three years after the final discharge. With the new law, the waiting period is three years after the final discharge if convicted of one felony, and a four year waiting period after the offender's final discharge if convicted of two felonies, or at the expiration of five years after final discharge if convicted of three, four, or five felonies.
Note that the new law is up for interpretation, and the court has discretion to approve or reject the petition, so that there is no guarantee that it will be granted. If you think that you may be eligible to have past convictions sealed you should contact an attorney to determine your eligibility.
On July 4, 2013 Annie Rooney a 36 year-old attorney from Chillicothe, Ohio was killed by a drunk driver at around 9 pm. Prior to returning to her hometown, she had spent time prosecuting domestic violence and DUI cases in Bozeman, Montana. Her death struck the community and in response to this tragic accident Annie’s Law or Ohio H.B. 388 will go into effect April 6, 2017. In an attempt to curb drunk driving, H.B. 388 will increase mandatory minimum license suspensions for first time offenders and increase the look back period for convictions.
As the law stands in the State of Ohio, a first time OVI/DUI offender receives a mandatory license suspension of six months. Effective April 6, 2017 first-time OVI offenders will be given a minimum license suspension of one-year with the maximum remaining at three years. The mandatory minimum suspension will also increase as follows:
Along with increasing the minimum suspension length, Annie’s law will lengthen the look back period for prior convictions from six years to ten years. Currently, Ohio law allows for penalties and suspensions to increase with each conviction within the six year look back period. The new law will increase the look back period to ten years allowing for repeat offenders to receive a harsher sentence.
The final provision of H.B. 388 will increase incentives for use of the ignition interlock device while harshly punishing those who fail to abide by the conditions of its use. Under the new law, the courts will be allowed to issue unlimited driving privileges to a person who is using the ignition interlock device. This allows the offender to not be subject to the limited driving privileges (work, school, and medical) normally issued, while increasing the monitoring of the individual. This change in driving privileges is being promoted as a benefit for both the offender and for court, but there is a potential drawback. Vehicle ignition interlock devices typically cost between $200-$300 to install in addition to the monthly fees between $50-$100. This upfront and continuing cost may make it difficult for some persons to take advantage of unlimited driving privileges.
Opponents of the new law also contend that Ohio's OVI/DUI laws are already stringent enough and the cost for the vehicle interlock system will be an additional financial burden to those who cannot afford it.
Along with the issuance of unlimited driving privileges, the offender’s license suspension may be cut in half and any jail time suspended so long as the conditions attached to the use of the interlock device are obeyed. If an interlock violation occurs, the judge may order the use of a continuous alcohol monitoring device, stiffer penalties, and increased suspension time.
This new law is effective April 6, 2017 and is viewed by some as a positive step towards the reduction of drunk driving in the State of Ohio, but it could also have the unintended consequence of causing persons who cannot afford the interlock device to potentially lose their jobs if they cannot drive to work and would provide an additional hardship for a person prior to being convicted of any crime.
 2015 Bill Text OH H.B. 388
As the weather changes from snow to sun, many Ohioans will trade in their snow boots and SUV’s for the fresh air of a summer bike ride. While hitting the open road on a bike often seems like a great time, riders must be aware of the dangers they face from motorists who fail to safely share the road with cyclists. In 2015, the State of Ohio reported that 1,508 crashes occurred involving a cyclist, with 1,273 resulting in injury and 29 resulting in a fatality. In response to the dangers faced by bicyclists, and in order to promote safe riding conditions, the State of Ohio recently enacted House Bill 154 or the “Give Bikes 3 Feet Law.”
The bill amended Revised Code section 4511.27, among other statutes. Prior to the enactment of this bill, the Code provided little guidance to motorists when passing a cyclist on the road. Previously the law stated that a motorist, “shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance.” This language left every driver to subjectively determine what a safe distance was. The amendment which became effective March 21st, 2017 clarified R.C. 4511.27 to read, “When a motor vehicle . . . overtakes and passes a bicycle, three feet or greater is considered a safe passing distance.” This has become an extremely important modification because the added space now allows for cyclists to have a protective buffer in case he or she needs to swerve, or take evasive action due to debris or another obstruction in their path.
While this new law is a positive step towards protecting cyclists, it likely will not end car/bike accidents. Because such accidents can be catastrophic or fatal, it is important to contact a skilled injury lawyer if you or someone you love are the victims of a car/bike accident.
 Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio Traffic Crash Facts (2015), http://www.publicsafety.ohio.gov/links/2015crashfacts.pdf (last visited Mar 24, 2017).
 2015 Ohio HB 154
What Happens When Another Vehicle Runs You Off the Road? Will Your Insurance Company Cover You If You Are Hurt?
There has been a significant new legal development that is good news for consumers!
Most insurance companies sell drivers a type of coverage that is supposed to provide benefits if a driver runs them off the road. This is called UIM coverage (shorthand for uninsured motorists coverage). However, the insurance companies contend there is no coverage if the claimant is unable to provide "independent corroborative evidence" of the hit-and-run vehicle other than the claimant's own story.
This is what happened to Scott Smith after he was run off the road by a vehicle that drove left of center and almost hit Scott head on. In order to avoid the crash, Scott swerved to the right, drove off the road, and straight into several trees.
Scott suffered injuries as a result of the crash, and turned the claim into his insurance company to help pay his medical bills and other losses. But his insurance company rejected his claim contending Scott couldn't produce any "corroborative evidence" of the hit-and-run driver -- other than evidence that was derived from his own testimony.
The case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court who ruled in Scott's favor recently, reversing prior bad rulings which had once supported the insurance companies' position. Smith v. Erie Insurance Company, 2016-Ohio-7742.
Scott Smith was able to win the case because, according to the Supreme Court, the wording in the insurance policy did not require "additional testimony" or "independent third party testimony." The Court ruled that Scott's phone conversation with a 911 operator immediately following the accident -- when he was in peril -- could form the basis of additional evidence supporting his testimony. Likewise, Scott's statements to the police officer could also constitute corroborative evidence, since Scott could face criminal liability if he knowingly made a false statement to the police.
While Scott was able to win coverage in his claim, not all insurance policies are drafted the same. We certainly expect insurance companies to re-draft their contracts in the future to get around this ruling. Therefore, it is important that injured parties' lawyers scrutinize these contracts and aggressively advocate for coverage on behalf of the injured person.
Ohio law does not provide a comprehensive set of Grandparent rights. Indeed, it is more like a patchwork quilt of limited circumstances where a Judge may make an order for a child to have contact with a third party. These third parties can be grandparents, aunts, uncles, or anyone else that has a special relationship with the child. Other than limited contact for a certain set of third parties in certain circumstances, the child’s parents have superior rights to everyone else in the world to his/her own child. For that reason, it is important to realize that your son or daughter’s rights are not transferable to you (for instance, if your son or daughter is incarcerated or stationed abroad, their rights do not automatically transfer to you).
For grandparents and other third parties who want to seek visitation rights, the most common time to do so is during the son or daughter’s pending divorce or custody proceeding. Grandparents can seek visitation whether the child's parents are unmarried, if the child's parents file for divorce, dissolution or legal separation, or if one of the child's parents has died.
The foremost typical scenarios for grandparent visitation or custody rights include the following:
1. If your son or daughter dies, and the other living parent denies contact (R.C. 3109.11).
2. If your son or daughter is in the midst of a divorce or other legal proceeding during which the Court determines parental rights or child support (R.C. 3109.051(B)).
3. If the Court finds, with respect to any child under eighteen (18) years of age, that custody to neither parent is in the best interest of the child, it may award custody to the child's relative, or refer the matter to the Juvenile Court (R.C. 3109.04(D)(2)); and
4. In a custody dispute between a parent and nonparent, if the Court finds the parent to be incapable of properly caring for the child (very high threshold to overcome) (R.C. 2151.23(A)(2)).
As stated above, the third party requesting visitation does not even have to be a "grandparent." In fact, the law specifies that a Court has discretion to grant reasonable companionship or visitation rights to "any other person having an interest in the welfare of the child" (R.C. 3109.05(B)).
As to whether or not to confer visitation rights on a grandparent or "other person," the Court considers what is in "the best interest of the child." What constitutes "best interests" varies in every circumstance, but the focus is going to be on the relationship between the grandparent and the child, and the impact that has on the grandchild’s welfare.
Of course, the Court must also take into account the viewpoint of the grandchild’s parents, by giving “special weight” to their wishes. Likewise, the grandchild's wishes may also be factored in -- depending on whether the child has sufficient reasoning ability by virtue of his/her age and intellect. Ultimately the Court makes the final determination after assessing all of the pertinent factors, viewpoints, and details.
Sexting, as it is called, means sending text messages or photographs that are sexually suggestive. It includes transmission of sexually suggestive messages by cell phone or other electronic devices. Currently, there are no specific sexting laws in Ohio, however, there are serious legal ramifications of engaging in sexting. While sexting includes the transmission of both explicit text messages and pictures, Ohio law is primarily concerned with the sending of the explicit pictures.
Sexting between two consenting adults over the age of 18 is not a crime. However, sexting between a minor and an adult, or even two consenting minors, is a serious crime. Not only is sexting a crime, it can lead to other serious consequences, such as ineligibility for college financial aid, limited employment opportunities, and sex offender registration.
Since Ohio does not have any laws specific to sexting, the behavior typically falls under Ohio’s laws covering child pornography. And despite the age of sexual consent in Ohio being 16, a person must be 18 before they can legally engage in consensual sexting. This means that a 30-year-old can have consensual sex with a 16-year-old, but it is a felony offense for an 18-year-old to possess a nude picture of his 17-year-old girlfriend.
Serious felonies can result from the sharing of any nude or racy images of anyone under 18, whether their faces are visible or not. Punishment for such crimes can include prison, fines, and mandatory registration as a sex offender for life.
What can be done to help prevent this? Parents should talk seriously with their children about sexting and the repercussions of engaging in such behavior. It may seem like a difficult conversation now, but it can prevent further problems (bullying, harassment, jail, fines, etc.) later on.
Teenagers may not see sexting as serious -- to them it may just be a form of flirting, or acting cool. But, the effects are lasting and dangerous if they are caught, charged, and prosecuted.
If you or your child is under investigation or has been charged with a crime related to sexting, it is important that you immediately consult with an attorney BEFORE speaking with law enforcement.
Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family and even to network professionally. Today there are a wide variety of social media outlets available – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are just a few of the options. While social media can be a useful tool, it is important to keep several pointers in mind to keep your social media use as safe and responsible as possible.
In 2013, motor vehicle collisions involving distracted drivers killed 3,154 and injured 424,000 people. These numbers demonstrate an alarming trend in distracted driving. While distracted driving is often associated with younger or more inexperienced drivers, drivers of all ages cause motor vehicle collisions due to distracted driving. Texting and driving or talking on the phone and driving are the most well-known distractions for drivers, yet a wide variety of other distractions are also that take drivers’ attention off the road.
 World Health Organization, Mobile phone use: a growing problem of driver distraction, available at http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/distracted_driving_summary.pdf.
 Distraction.gov (Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving), Facts and Statistics, http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety, http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Distracted_Driving/index.html.
 Federal Communications Commission (FCC), The Dangers of Texting While Driving, https://www.fcc.gov/guides/texting-while-driving.
Following a personal injury, you will likely be contacted by an insurance adjustor and may even receive an early settlement offer. While it may seem harmless to speak with an insurance adjuster and accept the offer, it may be in your best interest to speak with an attorney instead of the insurance company.
1. An insurance adjuster works for an insurance company, an attorney works for you.
As an employee of an insurance company, an insurance adjuster’s loyalty is to the insurance company. As such, the insurance adjuster is working to advance the interests of the insurance company by closing or settling your claim as quickly and cheaply as possible. On the other hand, an attorney works for you. An attorney’s job is to protect your legal rights, and ensure you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.
2. An insurance adjuster may encourage you to settle your claim before the extent of your injury is known.
An insurance adjuster may contact you soon after your injury with a settlement offer. It may seem tempting to sign the offer and receive payment quickly. However, acceptance of a settlement offer means that you lose your right to receive any additional financial recovery for your injury. This is especially troublesome if you accept the settlement offer early and then realize that your injuries, both physical and financial, are more extensive than you first realized.
3. An experienced attorney will help you navigate the complicated legal process and secure fair compensation for your injury.
One of the reasons individuals settle their claim for less than they are entitled is fear of the legal process. Attorneys have experience working with insurance companies and courts, and will act as your advocate. An attorney will use his or her expertise to negotiate with the insurance company and court system to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injury.
Speaking with an attorney instead of speaking with an insurance adjustor is an important step to take following a personal injury. An attorney will work for you to ensure you receive fair compensation for your injury, and do not mistakenly sign away your legal rights.
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