A full expungement of a criminal record, including arrest records on file with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation can be difficult to obtain, and only those meeting one or more of twelve specified criteria are eligible for this type of record expungement as defined by 22 O.S. § 18. However, the state of Oklahoma also allows the expungement of court records following successful completion of a deferred sentence. Sealing your record in this way can provide relief from a criminal history shows up on employment background checks and other searches of court records.
Expungement of the record of a deferred judgment is described in 22 O.S. 991(c), and while the procedure and the result differ from a "Section 18/19" expungement, the two are not mutually exclusive. You may be helped by both, petitioning for expungement immediately upon completion of your deferred sentence, and later filing for a full Section 18 expungement after 2 or 10 years, depending on whether the recorded offense was a misdemeanor or felony. A criminal lawyer handling expungement cases can help evaluate your history and your circumstances to determine which type of record expungement is right for you.
What is a Deferred Sentence?
Most people have heard the terms "deferred sentence," "deferred judgment," and "suspended sentence," but they do not know what those terms mean or understand the differences between them. Both deferred sentences and suspended sentences are types of probation in Oklahoma, but they are not the same thing.
A suspended sentence occurs when a person is convicted of a crime, but the sentencing judge suspends all or part of the jail or prison term. For example, if you are convicted of felony drug possession, you face between 2 and 10 years in prison on the first offense.
Your defense attorney successfully demonstrates your lack of prior criminal history, your enrollment in drug counseling and treatment, and your determination to rise above this mistake. A judge decides to sentence you to three years in prison, but suspends all three. This suspended sentence allows you to serve probation and avoid prison as long as you adhere to the terms of your probation. If you violate your probation, you may go to prison for the three suspended years. If you have been given a suspended sentence, you have been convicted of a crime.
A deferred sentence, on the other hand, does not end in criminal conviction if you successfully complete your probation. In this circumstance, a defendant pleads guilty to the offense, but the judge defers judgment until you either violate or complete the terms of the deferred sentence. In the example above, the judge may give you up to a 10 year deferred sentence for the drug possession charge.
If you violate the conditions of your sentence, then the judge will render a verdict and you face up to the maximum penalty in prison—not just the length of the deferred sentence. This is the other critical distinction between a deferred sentence and a suspended sentence. If you do complete the sentence successfully, complying with all conditions set forth by the judge, at the end of the term, your court record will be changed. Instead of indicating your guilty plea, it will show that you pleaded "not guilty," and your case was dismissed.
Section 991(c) Expungement
Deferred sentencing is explained in detail in 22 O.S. § 991. It lists the maximum length a deferred sentence (10 years) as well as common requirements: court costs, fees, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, victims' impact panel, community service, reparations, attorney fees, and more.
Subsection C refers to the procedure for expunging a criminal record following a deferred sentence:
C. Upon completion of the conditions of the deferred judgment, and upon a finding by the court that the conditions have been met and all fines, fees, and monetary assessments have been paid as ordered, the defendant shall be discharged without a court judgment of guilt, and the court shall order the verdict or plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere to be expunged from the record and the charge shall be dismissed with prejudice to any further action. The procedure to expunge the record of the defendant shall be as follows:
1. All references to the name of the defendant shall be deleted from the docket sheet;
2. The public index of the filing of the charge shall be expunged by deletion, mark-out or obliteration;
3. Upon expungement, the court clerk shall keep a separate confidential index of case numbers and names of defendants which have been obliterated pursuant to the provisions of this section;
4. No information concerning the confidential file shall be revealed or released, except upon written order of a judge of the district court or upon written request by the named defendant to the court clerk for the purpose of updating the criminal history record of the defendant with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation; and
5. Defendants qualifying under Section 18 of this title may petition the court to have the filing of the indictment and the dismissal expunged from the public index and docket sheet. This section shall not be mutually exclusive of Section 18 of this title.
To make sure your record is properly expunged and your name deleted from court records, contact an Oklahoma expungement lawyer. Call (405) 418-8888 to schedule a free consultation.
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