Cincinnati Council closer to easing expungement requirements

Oct 27, 2014

From 2006 to 2010, marijuana possession became a fourth degree misdemeanor and cause for arrest in Cincinnati. During that time the City filed nearly 17,000 charges against people found to have between 100 and 200 grams of marijuana. Now, Council is considering retroactively reducing the penalty and allowing those arrested to ask a judge to seal their records, so it doesn't affect their future.  

Council member Kevin Flynn says the law hurt a lot of people. He says the youngest person charged was seven years old and the oldest was 101. He says many of those who were arrested may today find it difficult to find and keep a job because of their criminal records.

The issue has been before City Council for weeks. Some members had more questions and requested a report from the City Manager’s office.  That report was delivered Monday morning at the Law and Public Safety Committee meeting.

Among the findings:

  • Most of those arrested were black: 14,601. 
  • 2,216 of those arrested were white. 
  • During the years the harsher penalties were in place, 21 people asked to have their records expunged, but were denied. 

There are no statistics on how many people have applied since the ordinance was overturned.

Stephen JohnsonGrove with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center says there are times when a record cannot be sealed. He says, for instance, if there are more than two arrests under the ordinance, then state law prohibits expungement. 

Right now, a judge cannot even consider sealing someone’s record unless the offense is considered a minor misdemeanor. This case, JohnsonGrove says, is constitutional because it doesn’t require judges to seal a record but leaves it up to their discretion. He expects about 1,000 people could have their records sealed. 

A vote from the full Council is expected Wednesday.