State v. R.S., C-210169

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Citation2022 Ohio 1108
Decision Date01 April 2022
PartiesSTATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. R.S., Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberC-210169,C-210170,C-210171,C-210172,C-210173



STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,

R.S., Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. C-210169, C-210170, C-210171, C-210172, C-210173

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

April 1, 2022

Criminal Appeals From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Trial Nos. C-03CRB-16738, C-05CRB-27882, C-05CRB-40612, C-09CRB-3833, C-16CRB-18440

Joseph T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Keith Sauter, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Plaintiff-Appellee,

Gregory A. Cohen, for Defendant-Appellant.



Bock, Judge.

{¶1} In these consolidated appeals, appellant R.S. contends that the trial court erred when it denied her applications to seal the records of her convictions. We agree and reverse the trial court's judgments. We remand the matter to the trial court with instructions to seal the records of her convictions.

I. Facts and Procedure

{¶2} From 2003 to 2016, R.S. pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor crimes:

1.) 2003: theft in violation of R.C. 2913.02
2.) 2005: transporting a loaded firearm in violation of R.C 2123.16
3.) 2005: possessing marijuana in violation of R.C. 2925.11.
4.) 2009: possessing drug paraphernalia in violation of R.C. 2925.12.
5.) 2016: resisting arrest in violation of R.C. 2921.33.

{¶3} In 2021, R.S. applied to seal the records of those convictions under R.C. 2953.32.

{¶4} At a hearing, she described to the court the social and economic consequences of her convictions. As a new mother who had achieved five years of sobriety, R.S. supported her family through the business that she operated and her artwork. She testified that her criminal record was affecting her business. As she explained, "I own a public business, people can look at my record." And her convictions were limiting her ability to obtain occupational licenses necessary to expand her business. It was also a matter of dignity. She "just d[id]n't want to be judged when [she] is not that person anymore." Sealing her criminal record meant that she could "move on with [her] life." The state did not oppose her applications.


{¶5} At the conclusion of the hearing, the court denied her applications. First, the court found that her 2005 conviction for drug possession was "a companion to a traffic conviction" and was ineligible for sealing. Over her objection, the court reasoned that "traffic convictions are not expungable, and this case was a driving under suspension, this was a conviction for possession of drugs." Turning to her remaining convictions, the court found that R.S. failed to demonstrate rehabilitation and that "the government's interest in maintaining these outweigh the applicant's interest in seeking their expungement."

{¶6} R.S. appeals.

II. Law and Analysis

{¶7} In her sole assignment of error, R.S. contends that the trial court erred when it denied her applications to seal the records of her convictions. We review a trial court's decision to deny an application to seal a record of conviction for an abuse of discretion. State v. Sager, 2019-Ohio-135, 131 N.E.3d 335, ¶ 9 (1st Dist). A trial court abuses its discretion when it" 'exercise[es] its judgment, in an unwarranted way, in regard to a matter over which it has discretionary authority.'" State v. Austin, 1st Dist. Hamilton Nos. C-210140 and C-210141, 2021-Ohio-3608, ¶ 5, quoting Johnson v. Abdullah, Slip Opinion No. 2021-Ohio-3304, ¶ 35. Abuse of discretion" 'implies that the court's attitude, in reaching its decision, was unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable.'" Id. at ¶ 34, quoting Blakemore v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 450 N.E.2d 1140 (1983).

{¶8} A decision is unreasonable when it is "not supported by 'a sound reasoning process.'" State v. Cannon, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-210131, 2021-Ohio-4198, ¶ 20, citing AAAA Ents., Inc. v. River Place Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., 50 Ohio St.3d 157, 161, 553 N.E.2d 597 (1990). A decision is arbitrary when it is


"made without consideration of or regard for facts [or] circumstances." State v. Beasley, 152 Ohio St.3d 470, 2018-Ohio-16, 97 N.E.3d 474, ¶ 12, quoting Black's Law Dictionary 96 (5th Ed.1979). In other words, an abuse of discretion occurs when a trial court's judgment"' "does not comport with reason or the record." '" State v. Hughley, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 108518, 2020-Ohio-1277, ¶ 53, quoting State v. Underwood, 11th Dist. Lake No. 2008-L-113, 2009-Ohio-2089, ¶ 30, citing State v. Ferranto, 112 Ohio St. 667, 676-678, 148 N.E. 362 (1925).

{¶9} First, we note that the trial court inaccurately referred to record sealing as an expungement. Expungement is an entirely separate process governed by R.C. 2953.37(A)(1), "which results in deletion, making all case records 'permanently irretrievable.'" State v. Aguirre, 144 Ohio St.3d 179, 2014-Ohio-4603, 41 N.E.3d 1178, ¶ 36, fn. 2. In contrast, sealing records under R.C. 2953.32 "simply provides a shield from the public's gaze [and limits] inspection of sealed records of conviction to certain persons for certain purposes." Id.

{¶10} In Ohio, sealing an individual's criminal record is an act of grace. State v. Boykin, 138 Ohio St.3d 97, 2013-Ohio-4582, 4 N.E.3d 980, ¶ 11, quoting State v. Hamilton, 75 Ohio St.3d 636, 639, 665 N.E.2d 669 (1996). Record sealing provides" 'remedial relief to qualified offenders in order to facilitate the prompt transition of these individuals into meaningful and productive roles.'" Sager at ¶ 9, quoting Barker v. State, 62 Ohio St.2d 35, 41, 402 N.E.2d 550 (1980). R.C. 2953.32(C) governs a trial court's decision to grant or deny an application to seal a record of conviction. As a remedial statute, R.C. 2953.23 is liberally construed. Barker at 41. A court may grant an application if the requirements identified by R.C. 2953.32(C)(1) are satisfied. Sager at ¶ 10, citing State v. Hill, 2016-Ohio-1551, 63 N.E.3d 690, ¶ 18 (10th Dist.). R.C. 2953.32(C)(1) requires the court to:


(a) Determine whether the applicant is an eligible offender * * *;
(b) Determine whether criminal proceedings are pending against the applicant;
(c) If the applicant is an eligible offender who applies pursuant to division (A)(1) of this section, determine whether the applicant has been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court;
(d) If the prosecutor has filed an objection [to the application], consider the reasons against granting the application specified by the prosecutor in the objection;
(e) Weigh the interests of the applicant in having the records pertaining to the applicant's conviction or bail forfeiture sealed against the legitimate needs, if any, of the government to maintain those records[.]

{¶11} After weighing the interests of the applicant and government, the court "shall order all official records of the case" sealed if the "legitimate government needs to maintain those records" do not outweigh the applicant's interest in sealing her records. R.C. 2953.32(C)(2).

A. Eligibility

{¶12} R.S. argues that the trial court erred when it denied her application to seal the record of her 2005 conviction for drug possession in violation of R.C. 2925.11 in the case numbered C-05CRB-40612. The trial court deemed this conviction ineligible "as it is a companion to a traffic conviction that is not expungeable." The trial court explained, "traffic convictions are not expungeable, and this case was driving under suspension, this was a conviction for possession of drugs."

{¶13} The parties agree that the record does not contain a companion traffic charge. They are correct. But we take judicial notice of R.S.'s conviction for driving


under a suspended license in violation of R.C. 4510.26. (Citations omitted.) See State v. Bevers, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 27651, 2018-Ohio-4135, ¶ 13.

{¶14} R.S. contends that the trial court erred when it determined that her conviction for drug possession in 2005 was ineligible for sealing. This raises a question of law that we review de novo. State v. Evans, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-210251, 2022-Ohio-341, ¶ 3, citing Wray v. Albi Holdings, P.L.L., 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-200381, 2021-Ohio-3920, ¶ 7; see State v. Ushery, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-120515, 2013-Ohio-2509, ¶ 6.

{¶15} In Ohio, there is a narrow class of offenses ineligible for sealing. See R.C. 2953.36. R.S.'s conviction for driving under a suspended license, a violation of R.C. 4510.16, falls into that narrow class of offenses-a person is ineligible to seal the record of a conviction under R.C. Chapter 4510. R.C. 2953.36(A)(2). The court determined that R.S.'s conviction for drug possession was ineligible as a "companion" to her conviction for driving under a suspended license....

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT