Sealing Records & Restoring Gun Rights
By: April Campbell
Defense attorneys should know when a client loses the right to bear arms as a collateral consequence to a conviction, and how to get it back. The right is a fundamental Ohio constitutional right, after all; one many Ohioans care deeply about. Ohioans love to hunt. And, some of us just want the ability to protect our own families within our own homes.
Whatever the reason, it is clear the right is important. But in Ohio, the right to bear arms can be stripped from a citizen in any number of circumstances. Most prevalently, clients are stripped of this right through conviction, such as when indicted or convicted for possessing felony-level amounts of drugs. R.C. 2923.13.
Yet, there is a lot of misconception out there about how to get this right back. People assume a pardon would do it, although that is not true (sorry Roger Stone).
People also assume sealing a record would do it too. According to a recent decision from the Second District, that assumption is correct. State v. T.J.D., 2020-Ohio-3745 (July 17, 2020).
Ever since 2015, when the legislature changed the weapons under disability statute, the sealing of a disabling criminal conviction does have the effect of restoring that person’s gun rights, according to the Second. We learn this because poor T.J.D., the defendant in the case, got charged with weapons under disability based on a drug conviction that he had sealed twenty-four years before he was indicted for weapons under disability. T.J.D. moved to dismiss his indictment since the conviction had already been sealed, which the trial court denied.
The Second District reversed. It reasoned that because the legislature changed the Weapons Under Disability statute to include the phrase “unless relieved from disability under operation of law or legal process” in 2015, the legislature has decided that an Ohioan’s gun rights are restored not just when granted relief from disability under R.C. 2923.14, but also upon the sealing of a conviction. One Caveat: The Second District is the only Ohio appellate court counsel is aware of, who has definitively ruled on this issue.