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I Need Legal Assistance

Legal assistance is available, often at a reduced cost or no cost, depending on your needs and overall situation.

Ohio SB337 - the Collateral Sanctions Reform Bill

The side-effects of a criminal record are called collateral consequences of conviction, or sometimes collateral sanctions. A landmark bill, Senate Bill 337, overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly and was signed into law by the Governor. The most significant parts of this bill include:

  • Certificates of Qualifications for Employment: these certificates will loosen job restrictions on ex-offenders and protect employers who hire them.
  • Keeping Juveniles in Juvenile Facilities: this will reduce the harm to young people by reducing the likelihood that they will be further criminalized or victimized while incarcerated.
  • Clarifying Confidentiality of Juvenile Records: this also expands the ability to seal juvenile records.
  • Creating Alternatives to Drivers License Suspensions: this allows Courts to order community service instead of certain fines and suspensions, and to permit limited driving privileges to those whose license was suspended for non-payment of child support.
  • Marijuana Paraphernalia Possession: this reduces paraphernalia possession to a minor misdemeanor, like marijuana possession itself (under 100g).
  • Record Sealing Eligibility: this expands the eligibility to allow certain conviction records to be sealed, including one felony and one misdemeanor, or two misdemeanors, subject to certain conditions.
  • Allowing Child Support Modifications Based on Actual Earning Capacity: this allows the Courts to assess sensible, right-sized child support orders based on actual earning capacity, not on pre-conviction or pre-incarceration earning capacity.
  • Reducing Restrictions on Specific Professions: this allows for reduced restrictions against ex-offenders in professions such as cosmetology, optical dispensers, salvage yard dealers, construction industry licenses, hearing aid dealers and fitters, and security guards

The Ohio Civil Impacts of Criminal Convictions database, or CIVICC, is a web-based tool created by the Ohio Justice & Policy Center and the Ohio Public Defender to answer two questions about state laws regarding collateral consequences:

  1. What are the collateral consequences under Ohio laws that are triggered by a specific conviction?
  2. What misdemeanor or felony offenses are likely to trigger a specific collateral consequence? Click here for an information sheet on CIVICC*.

*Note: The law changes often. Though it is updated regularly, CIVICC is no substitute for a laywer's advice

Local attorneys are available free, seven times each month, to answer your legal questions at Interfaith Legal Clinics.

For the purposes of this page, we divide legal assistance into the following categories:

  • Criminal
    meaning you are accused of a crime and could go to prison or jail. An example would be if you are arrested for theft or assault.
  • Child Support
    meaning you are suing for child support, or being sued for child support, where there is both a money component and a risk of jail time for non-payment or non-compliance. This category includes determination of paternity - that is, the identify of a child's biological father.
  • Civil
    a dispute between people or entities but where no jail time is possible. An example would be if someone is suing you for money, or if you are suing someone for money or benefits.
  • Civil Rights
    if your Constitutional or human or civil rights have been violated and you are suing the government for restitution or compensation.


If you have been arrested and charged with a crime that could subject you to jail or prison time, and you cannot afford to pay a lawyer, the State must provide legal assistance for you. This is done through the Office of the Public Defender.

In Franklin County, the Public Defender is Yeura R. Venters, Franklin County Public Defender Office, 373 South High Street, 12th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215. Phone: 614.525.3194, Fax: 614.461.6470.

Child Support

If you are a custodial parent suing for child support, or if you are a non-custodial parent being sued for child support, and you need assistance, or if you need to establish the paternity (who is the father) of a child, the Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency may be able to help.

The mission of the Child Support Enforcement Agency is to provide for the establishment and enforcement of child support orders to enhance the economic security and health insurance protection for the children and families of Franklin County.

CSEA, under the direction of Director Susan Brown, is located at 80 E. Fulton Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. Phone 614.525.3275; Fax 614.525.6409. The agency can assist with location of non-custodial parent, paternity establishment, establishment of child support and medical support orders, enforcement of child support and medical support orders, review and modification of support orders, and termination of support orders. The agency does NOT assist with issues of custody, divorce, and does not give legal advice or provide legal representation in court.


If you experience any of the following legal concerns, the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, located at 1108 City Park Ave, Columbus OH 43206, may be able to help:

  • Loss or denial of public benefits
  • Medicaid/Medicare
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Evictions
  • Foreclosures
  • Domestic Violence
  • Child Custody
  • Consumer Issues
  • Garnishments and attachments
  • Landlord/Tenant Dissolutions
  • Divorce
  • Income Tax Issues
  • Wills

In Franklin or Madison counties please call the Intake Line at 614.241.2001; the Intake Line is open Monday through Friday from 9:30a-3:30p. If you live in Delaware, Marion, Morrow, or Union counties please call the Marion Office at 740.383.2161. The phone lines are open 9a-12p and 1-5p Monday through Friday.

The Legal Aid Society of Columbus does not charge for its services but you may be required to pay certain court costs. The best way to see if you are eligible for their help is to fill out their online application.

Civil Rights

If you feel that your civil rights have been violated, contact the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU handles cases that involve serious violations of civil liberties by the government.

The ACLU maintains an extensive list of legal resources including:

Franklin County Municipal Courts Self-Help Center

Columbus Brief Legal Advice Clinics for 2018