Many Oklahomans who have been convicted of past offenses are plagued by a criminal record that can inhibit their current and future opportunities. Juvenile offenses, DUI, misdemeanors, and non-violent felonies create a criminal record that shows up in background checks for employment, housing, education, and financial aid. Fortunately, the state offers a way to clear your record, having court records sealed, or expunged. The most common type of expungement in Oklahoma is the sealing of records following the successful completion of a deferred sentence. This type of expungement is known as a Section 991(c) expungement, because it is outlined in 22 O.S. § 991c of the state statutes. Section 991 explains not only what a deferred sentence is, but also the procedure for having the record expunged.
A deferred sentence occurs when a defendant enters a plea of guilt or no contest, but a judge defers, or delays, rendering a judgment in the case until the defendant completes court ordered conditions of probation. Such conditions include restitution, fines and court fees, community service, jail time of 90 days or less, supervision and associated fees, and any other conditions the court deems necessary, including drug or alcohol treatment, parenting classes, anger management counseling, or other types of counseling and treatment.
If a defendant fails to successfully comply with the terms of the deferred sentence, the judge will likely render a judgement of guilty and sentence the defendant to jail. However, defendants who appropriately complete their deferred sentence may have the record expunged to and court records updated to read "case dismissed."
It is important to note that record exungement is not automatic. Rather, a person wishing to have his record expunged must petition the court in which he or she was charged, and law enforcement agencies have the right to protest or challenge an expungement. For this reason, it is important to retain the counsel of an Oklahoma expungement lawyer who can guide you through the process and help you achieve the optimal outcome.
Section 991(c) explains the expungement of 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.
Although the defendant originally pleaded guilty or no contest, the court records are updated to reflect a plea of not guilty and a disposition of "case dismissed." This means that the person wishing to clear his or her record can truthfully respond that he or she was not convicted of a crime when faced with such a question on interview forms and applications.
It is important to note that a Section 991(c) expungement does not clear a person's arrest record with the OSBI. For a "full expungement" under Section 18, a person must meet several rigid criteria, which may include factual innocence or no charges being filed after an arrest.
The law governing record expungement in Oklahoma changed effective November 1, 2012, providing eligibility to some people who did not previously qualify and denying others. If you are burdened by a criminal record you wish to have cleared, contact an attorney for a consultation of your case and to determine your expungement eligibility. Click here for more information.