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It took three appeals, but the court of appeals ordered the trial court to expunge our client’s felony conviction.

In 1998, M.D. was convicted of receiving stolen property, forgery, uttering, obstructing justice, and tampering with evidence. In 2009, M.D. applied to have his convictions expunged pursuant to R.C. 2953.32. The state objected, claiming “the nature of the crime, in and of itself, created a legitimate interest in the government’s maintaining the record of conviction.” The trial court denied M.D.’s motion without explaining its reasoning, and M.D. appealed.

The appeals court reversed, holding that the trial court abused its discretion because it “neither stated its findings orally at the hearing or issued written findings in its judgment entry when it summarily denied M.D.’s application.” The trial court reconsidered and again denied M.D.’s motion, this time claiming that he was not a first offender under the law.

The Eighth District again reversed, finding that the trial court erred when “it applied the incorrect time frame in deciding whether appellant’s convictions were within a three-month period for the purposes of merger.”

The trial court reconsidered M.D.’s motion and denied it a third time, finding that “the nature of the offense outweighs M.D.’s interest in sealing the record of conviction.”

Attorneys at ZDL appealed yet again, arguing that the trial court had no factual or legal basis to deny M.D.’s motion for expungement. Again, the Eighth District reversed the trial court, this time ordering it to expunge M.D.’s convictions.

Part of the state’s argument for why M.D.’s record should not be sealed was that he had “been able to rebuild his reputation, maintain a management position at work, and otherwise move on with his life.” Because the defendant was doing all right in life, the state claimed, he doesn’t really need his record expunged

The appeals court found this rationale “contrary to law.”

The fact that he is now successful should not deny him the benefits of the expungement statute. Because rehabilitation is a factor that must be demonstrated pursuant to R.C. 2953.32(C)(1)(c), it cannot be a factor that also counts against the offender when weighing the interests of the offender against the government’s interest.

The trial court also found that M.D. had not demonstrated remorse for his crimes. However, M.D. did not plead guilty to the offenses, but was found guilty by a jury. The appeals court held that M.D.’s supposed lack of remorse was not grounds to deny his expungement. “A defendant who exercises his right to a trial and is found guilty,” the court wrote,  “can be deemed ‘rehabilitated’ even if that person did not expressly state that he was guilty of the offense.

Attorneys at ZDL handled each and every appeal for M.D., and prevailed each and every time. The most recent victory finally put the issue to rest, resulting in the expungement of M.D.’s felony record, allowing him to move on with his life.

State v. M.D., 8th Dist. No. 97300, 2012-Ohio-1545.

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