The following is by no means a complete detailing of the Oklahoma laws and legal requirements for expunging criminal records, and if you are interested in an expungement, you should contact a qualified attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Oklahoma to fully explain the legal requirements and the necessary process.
Any person convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony in the State of Oklahoma can petition the court for expungement of that criminal record, as long as certain conditions are met.
Expungement of a criminal record will result in 'clearing' your criminal record, which is as good as saying 'it never happened.' Some jurisdictions use other terms to describe the process, such as 'sealing a record' or 'expunction.' Even though you may be able to expunge your criminal record, such expungement does not require destruction of the record but, rather, 'seals' it from public view, but not necessarily from law enforcement officials, district attorneys and other such agencies. Judges may still permit certain agencies to access the records if you engage in subsequent criminal behavior that lands you back in a court of law. Also, expungement does not require private entities to seal or otherwise dispose of the information they have previously accessed, i.e., a published newspaper article or television news broadcast that appeared at the time of the crime. Moreover, you can never expunge your driving records.
There are many reasons to expunge a criminal record. Your record may make it impossible to pass a background check required for many employment opportunities. Employers have the right to reject your application if they determine you have been convicted of a crime. You may also be rejected from entrance into colleges for undergraduate and graduate programs if you have an arrest record. Arrest records can also make it impossible to obtain various professional licenses, and such a record may impede your ability to travel outside the United States, as well as prevent you from obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
There are several ways to expunge criminal records in the state of Oklahoma, the first of which is under the guidelines of Title 22, section 991c, which applies to the expungement of guilty or nolo contendere ('no contest') pleas in cases with deferred sentences, wherein only the court's records will be sealed, but arrest records maintained by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and other law enforcement agencies will indicate 'pled guilty, case dismissed,' as opposed to the previous record which would inform readers that the individual had in fact pled guilty or no contest and received a deferred sentence.
A deferred sentence means that you have not been convicted of a crime, only that the sentencing for that crime has been postponed to a later date, even though you pled guilty or nolo contendere in a court of law. This type of plea must be approved by the court, and a person on a deferred sentence can technically inform anyone who inquires that he or she has not been convicted. A conviction from a deferred sentence will not result unless the prosecution files an application to accelerate the sentencing date in the case and then proves that the defendant has violated some condition of his or her probation. You may also be able to later request the court to issue an expungement under Title 22, section 18, as the two types of expungements are not mutually exclusive.
An expungement under Section 18 means a complete expungement (barring any subsequent criminal charges or convictions) and that the court's record will be sealed from public inspection, as well as any arrest record maintained by the OSBI and other law enforcement agencies in the state of Oklahoma, which records will thereafter only reference your identifying information (name and address). Section 18 expungements apply in a more narrow class of cases, and certain conditions must be met before an individual will be eligible for a section 18 expungement.
For instance, if the person arrested or charged with a crime was using your identification information without your consent and that identity thief was the actual perpetrator, you are eligible for expungement of that record. The same is true when DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) evidence exonerates you and proves your innocence after you've been convicted of a crime and this includes those who were previously incarcerated for that crime and were free from incarceration at the time their innocence was proven.
Other situations that may entitle one to the expungement of their criminal records include when the crime has been acquitted or pardoned by the Governor, when the District Attorney subsequently dismisses the charges, when the individual charged was under the age of 18 years at the time of the crime, and a few other circumstances as well.
Also, many individuals against whom a Victim Protective Order has been issued can also petition the court for expungement of that record.
There are so many special rules and conditions that pertain to the expungement of criminal records and Victims Protection Orders in the State of Oklahoma that you should never attempt to conduct the process yourself, and you will definitely need the assistance of a professional, qualified attorney to complete the expungement process.