My Case Was Dismissed--Why Do I Still Have a Record?15-Dec-2013
A defendant's optimal resolution to a criminal case is generally a dismissal--the charges are dropped, and the defendant avoids a time-consuming and costly trial. In some cases, a judge dismisses the charges as having no merit or insufficient evidence to substantiate prosecution. In other cases, a nonviolent offender or first-time offender may receive a deferred sentence that leads to dismissal.
In a deferred sentence, the defendant pleads guilty to the charge. However, rather than pronouncing the defendant's guilt, the judge delays judgment until he or she meets a prescribed set of conditions of probation. If a defendant does not comply with the terms of probation, the judge may accelerate sentencing and send the defendant to jail or prison. However, if the defendant adheres to the probationary terms, completes all requirements, and stays out of trouble, then when the deferred sentence is complete, the plea is changed to "not guilty," and the court records are updated to reflect a dismissal of the case.
Many people think that "case dismissed" means that they have a clean record, and they are surprised to find out that record of their arrest and charge still exist. For some, this record can lead to bias against employment and other negative consequences.
In a deferred sentence expungement, the defendant's name is delete from court records. However, this type of expunction, a Section 991c expungement, does not affect arrest records on file with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). That is why, even after a dismissal, a person may still have a record.
Fortunately, Oklahoma provides a means of complete record expungement, including the OSBI arrest record. A Section 18/19 expungement, which is not exclusive of a Section 991c expungement, is available to those who meet a specified set of criteria, including no charges filed after the arrest, factual innocence determined by DNA evidence, and a dismissal of charges with no subsequent or pending criminal cases. Title 22 Section 18 lists 12 specific criteria for eligibility, and Sections 19a and 19c provide record expungement for victims of identity theft and human trafficking, respectively.
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