Bench Card Offers Guidance on Sealing of Record, How to Handle Indigent Applications
The Ohio Supreme Court today announced the availability of a bench card regarding sealing criminal records and the proper steps to take to waive fees for those who can’t afford to pay them.
The reference guide – developed by Supreme Court staff and Lakewood Municipal Court Judge Pat Carroll – seeks to better educate the judicial branch about who is eligible to have a record sealed, when an offender may apply to have his record sealed, the fees that can be charged, and when a filing fee is not required.
In addition, the bench card briefly outlines the elements of the state statute that governs the sealing of a criminal record and provides sample language for courts to waive the application fee because of indigency.
The record-sealing bench card follows the release of bench cards for juvenile and adult courts about the collection of fines and court costs.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has been a national leader in the elimination of the practice of “debtor’s prisons.” She serves as co-chair of the National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices to address the ongoing impact that court fines and fees and bail practices have on communities – especially economically disadvantaged areas – across the United States.
“I’m grateful that Southeastern Ohio Legal Services brought this issue to our attention,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “The agency’s survey of 80 courts in Ohio identified both varying fees across courts for sealing records and the fact that many courts don’t accept applications without filing fees. I’m pleased that this bench card offers courts guidelines and creates more consistency across the state.”
All judges, magistrates, court administrators, and chief probation officers in the state received notice this month about the availability of the bench card.