Oklahoma law defines a felony as "a crime which is, or may be, punishable by death, or by imprisonment in the penitentiary." In other words, a felony is a crime that carries prison time as its penalty. The law then goes on to define a misdemeanor as "every other crime" that doesn't carry a prison sentence.
What is a Misdemeanor?
In general a misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail, but often the sentence is much less. A person may even be able to avoid jail altogether through a deferred sentence or a suspended sentence. Some misdemeanors carry minimal sentences--only a few days in jail. For many people, the hardest part of a misdemeanor comes after the legal penalties, with a criminal record that hurts employment, educational, and financial opportunities.
Fortunately, there is a way for people to clear their records and get embarrassing or troublesome misdemeanors from past mistakes off of their records. Did you get a DUI in college? You may be able to have record of your arrest expunged. Were you arrested for shoplifting as a juvenile? You may be eligible for having your juvenile record expunged. Have you had some legal difficulties in your adult life? You may be able to clear your criminal record and start with a clean slate.
In Oklahoma, misdemeanor expungements may come under either Section 18 or Section 991c of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes.
The expungement of a deferred sentence occurs under Section 991c. Often, for first offenses or minor crimes, a judge will decide to delay judgement in order to give the person a chance to make amends without being punished by incarceration. In such a case, the defendant would plead guilty to the offense, but rather than entering a judgment, the judge will defer sentencing and order probation. If the defendant adheres to the terms of his or her probation, the case will be dismissed at the end of the probationary term. The court records will be updated to change the defendant's plea from "guilty" to "not guilty," and his or her name will be stricken from court records. However, the arrest record remains on file with the OSBI.
A deferred sentence may be more completely expunged under Section 18 as can certain qualifying misdemeanor and nonviolent felony convictions. A person may qualify for a Section 18 expungement of a misdemeanor under the following conditions (effective November 1, 2014):
- The person was charged with a misdemeanor but the charge was dismissed, there are no pending felony or misdemeanor cases, and charges will not be refiled
- The person's case was dismissed after a deferred sentence, he or she has no felony or misdemeanor convictions, there are no pending charges, and a year has passed since the charge was dismissed
- The person was convicted of a misdemeanor, has never been convicted of a felony, has no pending charges, and at least 10 years have passed since the most recent misdemeanor conviction
The above criteria apply only to the expungement of misdemeanors. Nonviolent felonies may also be expunged under specific eligibility requirements defined in 22 O.S.§ 18.