The Oklahoma Supreme Court is currently considering whether or not to limit access to personal information in court records.
Information That is Public in Oklahoma
Some of the items which would be excluded from court records include birth dates and addresses; identifying numbers such as Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers would be limited to the last four digits only. Names of children would be eliminated from court records, and minors would be referred to by initials only. This measure, if enacted, is designed to offer privacy protection to those mentioned in court records. As with any proposed ruling, the new rules have proponents and opponents.
Those in support of the rules are in favor of the privacy and protect such measures would provide. They claim that the rules may cut down on identity theft. Those who oppose the new laws argue that identity theft generally occurs through computer hacking, not from information in public records, and say that restricting this information violates Freedom of Information.
One key effect the new privacy rules might have is argued as both a pro and a con, depending on whether you ask supporters or opponents. By eliminating certain personally identifying information, criminal background checks become more difficult.
For those with criminal records, having this information removed from court records means that they do not have to be burdened unnecessarily by minor crimes showing up on an employment background check--or on a personal background check.
If an expungement (read more here) of the crime is not possible, the new rules might provide some relief. Though the record is not cleared, it becomes much more difficult for a criminal history to be detected from public records in a casual search, particularly if the person being investigated has a common name.
Those that are against the new rulings say that media, employers, and even prospective romantic partners will have a harder time verifying a person's criminal background. The Oklahoma Supreme Court is asking for public opinion regarding the proposal by November 4, 2011. The Court is attempting to balance privacy and openness as more and more court records for civil, criminal, and divorce proceedings are publicly available online.
Clearing Your Criminal Record
If you have a criminal record and have been burdened by background checks, then new rules might provide some relief. However, if you truly want your record cleared, contact a criminal defense attorney to see if you qualify for an expungement of your Oklahoma criminal record.