Ohio Supreme Court: Person who Receives a Pardon is Not Entitled to Expungement

The Ohio Supreme Court has held that Ohio law does not require the sealing of a criminal record based on a pardon.

The case is State v. Boykin 2013-Ohio-4582.

The Defendant, Montoya Boykin, was convicted six times between 1987 and 2007 for different offenses. In 2007, she received a pardon from Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.  She then sought to have the records of her convictions in the courts sealed.

The Ohio Supreme Court noted that the sealing of a criminal record, also known as expungement,is a “privilege, not a right.”  In order to obtain an expungement, the Ohio statute provides that there be  no criminal proceeding against the applicant, the expungement of the record of conviction is consistent with the public interest, and the applicant’s rehabilitation has been attained to the satisfaction of the court.

The statute does not address whether a pardon from the governor entitles the recipient to have the records of the conviction sealed. The effect of a pardon is to release the offender from the entire punishment prescribed for his offense, and from all the disabilities consequent to the conviction.  The Ohio Supreme Court, however, rejected the argument that an expungement is necessary to remove the “disability” that results from having a criminal record. The defendant explained that “having a criminal record imposes real and lasting negative consequences such as difficulty in finding employment, in obtaining housing, and in establishing eligibility for public benefits.”  The court explained:

[A]lthough a pardon grants the recipient relief from any ongoing punishment for the offense and prevents any future legal disability based on that offense, it does not erase the past conduct. In other words, what’s done is done.

The court further explained that this means that, under the existing statute, a person who receives a pardon is not entitled to an expungement.

While a pardon releases the offender from further punishment prescribed for the offense and removes certain disabilities consequent on the conviction, there is nothing in the Constitution, the Revised Code, or our case law that requires the sealing of a criminal record based on a pardon. It is within the purview of the General Assembly to provide that automatic entitlement to sealing of a criminal record is a consequence of a pardon. But in the absence of such a provision, we hold that a gubernatorial pardon does not automatically entitle the recipient to have the record of the pardoned conviction sealed.

This means that the General Assembly may change the law to permit an expungement in these circumstances, but until it does the defendant’s records remain unsealed.

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