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Nonviolent Drug Offenders Could Find Relief under Proposed Expungement Amendment

15-Apr-2015

Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, a fact we discussed here. According to the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), Oklahoma's incarceration rate was 22 percent higher than the national average in 2013, and only 12 percent of the prison population was incarcerated for violent crime. The Sentencing Project reports that the state has the third highest incarceration rate in the nation, and the highest incarceration rate for women. The same report shows that 27 percent of Oklahoma inmates have as their primary offense a drug crime. That means more than a quarter of the state's inmates are behind bars for nonviolent drug crimes--a rate that is a full 7% higher than the national average.

In Oklahoma, drug offenders are more likely to be sentenced to prison than in other states, and they are likely to receive significantly longer sentencing. While sentencing reform is necessary for reducing the burden placed on both drug offenders and the taxpayers who pay to incarcerate them, there are other problems with convicting so many people of drug crimes.

When a person is convicted of a crime, he or she is left with a criminal record that can make it difficult to secure housing, find a job, and get government assistance--the very things necessary to keep someone from re-offending. A person who cannot find a job and who cannot get government assistance while he or she looks for work may feel no other option but to turn to illegal means to meet his or her basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. 

Now, one Oklahoma lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make it easier for nonviolent drug offenders to clear their criminal record and move forward with a productive life.

Sen. Kim David (R) has sponsored Senate Bill 442, which, if passed, would amend Oklahoma's expungement laws in 22 O.S. § 18 to allow record expungement for people convicted of certain drug crimes.

Currently, a person is eligible for record expungement under Section 18 if he or she meets one or more of 12 distinct criteria (read more). SB 442 would add another eligibility factor for nonviolent drug offenders. If the bill is passed, Section 18 would be amended to include the following expungement qualifier:

13. The person was convicted of a drug offense other than aggravated drug trafficking or of a nonviolent misdemeanor offense, the person has not been convicted of an additional offense other than a misdemeanor punishable by thirty (30) days or less in jail, the person has not been revoked from probation or parole, and at least five (5) years have passed since the completion of the execution of the sentence.

Clearing your criminal record can bring immeasurable relief and open up new opportunities. Contact an Oklahoma expungement lawyer to learn more. Continue to follow our news articles to keep track of progress with SB 442.



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