It’s a rare individual who has never committed some faux pas that doesn’t make him wince a little when he remembers it. If your error involved a step outside the law, you might fear that you’ll be wincing for a long time to come. When you apply for a job and your potential employer runs a criminal background check, there it is. If you want to lease a nice new apartment, the landlord may do the same thing and your conviction will raise its ugly head once more.
A criminal record can affect your chances of getting into the college or university of your dreams. All this seems blatantly unfair if the misstep you took happened a long time ago and you’ve had a clean record ever since, and, in fact, the Oklahoma legislature agrees.
Rules apply, of course. You must meet qualifying criteria. But if you do, we can have your record sealed. In many cases, if someone asks you about it – such on a job or lease application – you can deny that it ever happened.
What Expungement Can Do – And What It Can’t Do
The Oklahoma expungement process isn’t a magic wand. You can’t wave it and travel back in time to undo your violation of the law. If you made the news, those articles and film clips will still exist and there’s not much we can do about that. What expungement can do is push your criminal record behind a curtain so it’s not available for the public to see. Provided you never get in trouble again, it effectively goes away – at least under most normal circumstances.
Law enforcement can still access it and a judge can order your record unsealed again under certain circumstances, usually if you commit an additional offense. If you’re a witness in someone else’s trial, the state can access the records to try to impeach your testimony – to rightly or wrongly imply that you’re not quite an upstanding citizen and should not be believed. But most people never find themselves in any of these circumstances. They simply want their private past to remain private, the details made unavailable to the general public.
Preparing Your Case
If expungement sounds like a good deal to you, bring us a copy of your criminal history or “rap sheet.” You can get it from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal History Reporting Unit. We’ll look it over and tell you whether you’re eligible for expungement, and if so, what kind.
You’ve got two options. The first, a Section 18 expungement, seals your whole arrest record. The record still exists but the average citizen can’t see it. You must take this route if you were convicted, even if you only received a suspended sentence. If you received a deferred sentence and it was revoked, you’re limited to a Section 18 expungement. This applies to both misdemeanor offenses and non-violent felonies. Violent felonies cannot be expunged under Oklahoma law.
If your record involves a misdemeanor offense, you may not have been convicted of any other crimes. If you were convicted of a non-violent felony, the requirements are a little more stringent – you must additionally receive a pardon first. Additionally if you were convicted of multiple non-violent felonies, only two can be expunged.
A Section 991(c) expungement might suit your needs better if you were charged with a crime but never actually convicted. You may have been found not guilty by a judge or jury, or the case against you may have been dismissed due to lack of evidence or some other problem with the prosecution. In either event, you don’t have a conviction record to seal but your criminal history still shows a brush with the law. A Section 991(c) expungement will update your record to explain the ultimate outcome of your ordeal, but it won’t seal the event from public view. This option is also available if you received a deferred sentence and you’ve met all conditions of the deferment.
When You’re Ready to File
After we determine whether you’re eligible and what type of expungement best fits your needs, we’ll file a petition with the District Court in the district where you were arrested. We’ll serve copies of the petition on the Custodian of Records for the law enforcement agency that charged you, as well as the sheriff and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Any or all of these entities have a right to object to expungement of your record if they feel that the public good trumps your right to privacy. In most cases, this doesn’t happen, and if it doesn’t, it’s unlikely that you would even have to appear in court. If it does, however, your attorney is there to fight for your rights.
These rules and qualifications merely scratch the surface of a complex process. If you’d like to know more so you can fully explore your options, call us at (405) 703-4567. We’ll work with you to determine your best course of action depending on your unique and personal concerns.