A person first builds a criminal record in Ohio when they are arrested and fingerprinted by law enforcement in the state. The law enforcement agency will then forward information about the arrest to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which maintains the state’s central repository of criminal history information. Subsequent arrests and all dispositions that follow will be added to the person’s criminal record.
Criminal records are not public record in Ohio. A person may request a copy of their own criminal record from the BCI, but requesting the record of another person requires that person’s signed consent and a complete scan of their fingerprints.
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and a police record.
As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state.
In the State of Ohio, criminal records are more tightly controlled than in other states. Although a person may request their own record, they cannot view the record of another person without their authorized consent.
What is included in an Ohio criminal record?
As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, an Ohio criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.
Generally, an Ohio criminal record will include the following information:
- A person’s full name and possible aliases
- Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot
- Misdemeanor criminal offenses and convictions
- Felony criminal offenses and convictions
- Past and outstanding arrest warrants
- Pending and dismissed charges
Why would someone access a criminal record?
There are many reasons to access a criminal record.
- Most commonly, people search criminal records as a way to run a background check on a particular person.
- They’re also used by law enforcement to identify or locate people involved in unsolved crimes or by the court system to determine an appropriate sentence after a conviction.
- An individual may want to access his or her own record as well. It’s not uncommon for people to request their own criminal records to see what information is public.
- In some cases, a record could be inaccurate or include outdated information. If that’s the case, it’s important to have the record corrected.
What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?
Arrests and convictions listed on a criminal record are separated into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
To give a better understanding of the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each category of offense:
- Infraction – An infraction is a minor violation of the law that is regulated at the state level. Punishment for an infraction is usually just a fine or a written warning, rather than a jail or prison sentence. Examples of infractions include minor traffic violations, public nuisance offenses, and littering.
- Misdemeanor – A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction, yet less serious than a felony. Generally, a misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than a year, or by a term of probation. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor is more likely to serve time in a county or local jail than in a federal or state prison. Examples of misdemeanors include driving under the influence, most drug abuse violations, and petty theft.
- Felony – A felony is the most serious type of crime, often characterized by the use of a weapon during a crime, serious injury to a victim, and/or holding a person against their will. Felony convictions typically result in a term of imprisonment of more than one year in a state or federal prison. Examples of felonies include rape, murder, and grand theft.
What is the difference between an Ohio arrest record and an Ohio criminal record?
While an arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest, a criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies.
How do I request an Ohio criminal record?
Requesting a copy of a criminal record in Ohio requires the submission of four items to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. As obtaining an electronic fingerprint scan at a BCI location is one of the required steps, all items may be submitted in-person following the fingerprint scan appointment.
Submit the following to the Ohio BCI in order to request a copy of a criminal record:
- The full name, address, and physical characteristics of the subject of the record.
- A complete scan of the subject’s fingerprints (can be obtained at a BCI location).
- Signed consent of the subject of the record (either your own signature or the signature of the person whose record you wish to view).
- A check, money order, or e-payment of $22 payable to the “Treasurer of State of Ohio”.
The BCI does not specify a waiting period for criminal record request processing. Electronic fingerprint scans may be done at one of the four BCI locations listed below. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, please wear a facemask and observe social distancing protocol when visiting a BCI location.
BCI fingerprint scanning locations:
1560 State Route 56 SW
London, Ohio 43140
BCI Bowling Green
750 North College Drive
Bowling Green, Ohio 43402
4055 Highlander Parkway
Richfield, Ohio 44286
20 W. Federal Street
Youngstown, Ohio 44503
How do I obtain a physical copy of an Ohio criminal record?
If the subject of a criminal record request is found to have a criminal record in Ohio, a physical copy of the criminal record will be delivered to the address listed on your application.
Why can’t I access an Ohio criminal record?
Ohio does not allow a person to access the criminal record of another person without a fingerprint and signed authorization. If you submit these items and the criminal record yields no results, there are three possibilities:
- The individual does not have a criminal record in Ohio.
- The individual’s criminal history is listed under an alias.
- The individual’s criminal history has been sealed or expunged.
How do I search for Ohio criminal case court records?
Rather than providing a single searchable online database of Ohio court records, many individual courts in the state have their own online records databases. These search tools typically allow users to search by case type, party name, party type, case status, or case number.
Here’s a list of the major Ohio searchable court records databases:
- Hamilton County Court of Clerks: Records Search
- Northern District of Ohio: Court Records
- Franklin County Municipal Court: Records Search
- Cleveland Municipal Court: Public Access
- Ohio Supreme Court: Case Search
Does Ohio allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?
Laws passed by the Ohio state legislature in 2018 now allow individuals to have as many as five felonies expunged or sealed (these terms refer to the same process in the state) from their Ohio criminal record. However, the felonies must be 4th-degree of 5th-degree (1st-degree felonies like armed robbery, rape, and manslaughter may not be sealed or expunged).
The following are the waiting periods before a person can apply for sealing/expungement:
- All misdemeanors: One year after completion of sentences and paying of fees and/or fines
- 1-2 felonies: Four years after completion of sentences and probationary periods
- 3-5 felonies: Five years after completion of sentences and probationary periods
In addition to felonies and misdemeanors, many other types of records can be sealed in Ohio, such as traffic offenses and juvenile criminal convictions. Refer to this Restoration of Rights Project guide for further information on how to apply to have records sealed.
How can I have false information on an Ohio criminal record corrected?
The BCI outlines a process for challenging incorrect information or falsely attributed arrests on an Ohio criminal record, which is as follows:
- Highlight the incorrect information on a copy of the criminal record.
- Collect any supporting documents in your possession that serve as proof that the information on the criminal record is incorrect.
- Submit the challenge and supporting documents to the law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest. If the challenge is valid, they will conduct an investigation which may result in the charge(s) being removed from the record.
How long are Ohio criminal records kept on file?
Ohio criminal history information is maintained in the state’s central repository forever unless a successful expungement/sealing petition is passed.