“Can a DUI/OVI or traffic offense be expunged/sealed?” This is a fairly common question and, unfortunately, the answer is “no.” ORC 2953.36 states that DUI/OVI convictions and other traffic offenses cannot be sealed or expunged. Thus, a DUI/OVI conviction will remain part of your permanent record. However, what about charges that arise from a traffic offense?
The issue of a person’s eligibility for expungement and traffic offenses was the subject of the Ohio Supreme Court decision in State v. Pariag. In Pariag, the defendant was pulled over for a traffic offense and upon searching Pariag’s vehicle, law enforcement found marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Pariag was charged with driving under suspension, marijuana possession, and drug paraphernalia. Pariag pled guilty to driving under suspension, and the marijuana and drug paraphernalia charges were dismissed. Pariag then had his record sealed over the objection of the prosecutor, who appealed the decision.
The Ohio Supreme Court examined ORC 2953.61, holding that “if the record of one charge cannot be sealed, any charges filed as a result of or in connection with the act that resulted in the unsealable charge cannot be sealed.” While this decision presents a flawed analysis (discussed below), this decision provides that if a person is charged with an offense that cannot be expunged (e.g., DUI/OVI) and is also charged with an offense that arose from the offense that cannot be expunged (e.g., drug paraphernalia), the offense that could otherwise be expunged now cannot be.
The court’s reasoning in Pariag is flawed because the driving under suspension, marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia charges did not arise from the same conduct. The offenses may have occurred at the same time, but they did not arise from the same conduct. A person can commit driving under suspension without possessing marijuana or drug paraphernalia. Justice Pfeifer, in his dissent, was correct in stating, “Today this court determines that a material offense that was dismissed and that is ordinarily sealable cannot be sealed because an immaterial traffic offense cannot be sealed. That doesn’t make sense.”
So, does this necessarily mean that Pariag cannot have the marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia sealed because of the driving under suspension conviction? No. The Ohio Supreme Court held that “a trial court is precluded from sealing the record of a dismissed charged pursuant to R.C. 2953.61 if the dismissed charge arises ‘as the result of or in connection with the same act’ that supports a conviction that is exempt from sealing…” Thus, Pariag and others can have a charge sealed and expunged, even if the charge resulted from the same arrest relating to a non-expungable offense, if the individual can demonstrate that the charge did not “arise as a result of or in connection with the same act.” While this makes things more difficult, there still exists the possibility of having Pariag’s marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia record sealed and expunged.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Expungement and Record Sealing Attorney
If you have previous criminal offenses that you wish to have expunged and sealed in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, call Johnson Legal, LLC at (614) 987-0192 and speak with Attorney David Johnson. As an experienced criminal defense attorney, Attorney Johnson will discuss with you your previous criminal convictions, whether you meet the requirements of an “eligible offender,” and assist you with the process of expungement and record sealing. For further information on expungement, read Johnson Legal, LLC’s page on expungement and record sealing.