Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Pardon by the Governor Doesn’t Entitle Defendant to Sealed Criminal Record

A Dublin man who received a pardon from then-Governor Ted Strickland in 2011, is not entitled to have his past criminal record sealed, the Tenth District Court of Appeals has ruled.

In a 3-0 decision announced October 11, the court of appeals reversed a ruling in which a Franklin County common pleas court judge had granted an application by James A. Radcliff to seal multiple prior criminal convictions he had received throughout Ohio between 1973 and 1981.

After his release from prison, Radcliffe rehabilitated himself, marrying, raising a family and working for 21 years with Dublin City Schools. He filed the application to seal his record after he was fired from his job when a local newspaper published an article noting the criminal records of some school employees.

The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas granted the application to seal his criminal conviction, and the decision was appealed to the Tenth District by the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.

The Tenth District reversed the common pleas court and sent the case back to that court “with instructions to deny the requested record sealing.”

“In the final analysis, the state and federal law governing the effect of a pardon on a recipient's ability to seek expungement compels us to conclude that a pardon neither erases the conviction nor renders the pardon recipient innocent as if the crime were never committed,” wrote Judge Peggy Bryant.

Noting the difficult nature of the case, Judge Bryant wrote, “A convicted felon more deserving of a fresh start, based on the evidence in the record, is hard to imagine than defendant and his impressive turn-around. Based on the noted authority, however, defendant's pardon alone does not erase his conviction and entitle him to judicial expungement. The applicable statutes governing expungement similarly do not provide defendant with the relief desired. If that is to change, the General Assembly likely will be the entity to accomplish it.”

Judge Bryant also noted how questions of sealing criminal records are magnified in the age of the Internet.

“Our decision is a particularly difficult one to reach, knowing today's technologically based society makes the harm perpetrated through a public criminal record accessible to virtually everyone,” she wrote.

Judge Bryant’s decision was joined by Judge Susan Brown and Judge Julia L. Dorrian.

State v. Radcliff, 2012-Ohio-4732
Criminal Appeal From: Franklin County Court of Common Pleas
Judgment Appealed From Is:  Reversed and Remanded
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: October 11, 2012

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