Any arrest, charge, or conviction carries with it a record of the brush with the law. Court records and a criminal record with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation can come back to haunt a person trying to move past a criminal conviction or accusation. Many people are embarrassed by this record of their past court dealings, but the consequences of a criminal record extend far beyond personal shame.
Employment background checks are common, and a blemish on your record, whether a misdemeanor or felony offense, can cost you the job. A criminal record may make it difficult or impossible to obtain a housing lease, secure a financial loan, enter the military, gain admission to a college or university, earn professional licensure, or even volunteer at your child's school. Additionally, your record is public, meaning anyone—from nosy neighbors to curious colleagues to prospective in-laws—can search the criminal record databases online at the Oklahoma State Courts Network (www.oscn.net) or On Demand Court Records (www1.odcr.com).
If you have been completed a deferred sentence or served your sentence for conviction of a crime, you have paid your dues. The lingering criminal record can force you to deal with the consequences of a mistake long after you have moved beyond the circumstances that led to your arrest. When you want to leave the past behind you, filing a petition for expungement of your record can give you a fresh start.
What is an Expungement?
Many people talk of clearing their record or sealing their record. This process is referred to as expungement (or in some cases, expunction) of the criminal record. In Oklahoma, there are two types of record expungement for which an individual may qualify. The first, defined under 22 O.S. § 991c of the state code, allows for the expungement of a record following successful completion of a deferred sentence. This allows the defendants name to be sealed from court records and public view, and the disposition of the case is changed from a guilty plea to reflect a plea of not guilty, case dismissed. While this type of expungement seals your court record from public record checks, your arrest record remains on file with the OSBI. However, a 991c expungement does remove your records from the OSCN and ODCR websites, and your OSCN background check will reveal record that says you pled not guilty and your case was dismissed.
In order to have a full expungement of your criminal history, you must meet specified criteria outlined under 22 O.S. § 18-19. These statutes explain the qualifications and procedures for a full record expungement in Oklahoma.
More people will qualify for a Section 991(c) expungement than a Section 18/19 expungement; however, the two are not mutually exclusive. If you would like to clear your record, consulting an expungement lawyer is the first step. An attorney can examine your record to determine the type of expungement for which you qualify, and he knows the procedure for quickly and properly petitioning the court for an expungement of your court records or criminal history.
Who Can Get an Expungement?
Anyone who complies with the terms of his or her probation under a deferred sentence is eligible to have his or her record expunged under 22 O.S. § 991(c). People convicted of certain misdemeanors and non-violent felonies may be eligible under 22 O.S. § 18-19. In many cases, a person may have his or her juvenile record expunged, and people who were arrested but never charged can have their OSBI arrest record expunged.
Hiring an Expungement Lawyer
Record expungement is not automatic. Your convictions do not simply "fall off" your record after a set amount of time. You must petition the court for an expungement of your record. In most cases, you only get one shot at doing it right. By hiring a lawyer to handle your expungement, you ensure that your petition is filed correctly and filed in the proper place. In the case of a Section 18/19 expungement, the OSBI, the District Attorney's Office, and any police agency that maintains your records have the right to challenge the sealing of your record if the agency feels that the public interest of knowing about your record outweighs your personal right to privacy. If your expungement is contested, it is critical that you have an experienced attorney on your side to fight the challenge. When you have had enough of your criminal past infringing on your present, call (405) 418-8888 to speak with an attor