New Expungement Law to Offer Faster Relief

A new Oklahoma law that reduces the waiting period before getting an expungement will take effect November 1, 2016. The new expungement law means, among other things, that those who have been convicted or received a deferred sentence for certain misdemeanors and non-violent felonies will be able to have their records sealed much more quickly than they would under the existing law.

Earlier this year, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate both unanimously passed House Bill 2397 before Governor Mary Fallin changed it into law. The new law includes significant amendments and additions which expand expungement eligibility under 22 O.S. 18-19.

First, the existing law grants expungement eligibility to people who meet one or more of 12 specific circumstances or criteria. The new law will add two more conditions of eligibility expanding the number of people to whom record expungment may be available:

  • The person was convicted of a misdemeanor offense, the person was sentenced to a fine of less than Five Hundred One Dollars ($501.00) without a term of imprisonment or a suspended sentence, the fine has been paid or satisfied by time served in lieu of the fine, the person has not been convicted of a felony, and no felony or misdemeanor charges are pending against the person;
  • The person was convicted of not more than two nonviolent felony offenses, not listed in Section 571 of Title 57 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the person has received a full pardon for both of the nonviolent felony offenses, no felony or misdemeanor charges are pending against the person, and at least twenty (20) years have passed since the last misdemeanor or felony conviction.

In the first circumstance, a person may be immediately eligible for expungement of a misdemeanor conviction that only results in a fine of less than $501. For example, if you get a ticket for public intoxication, pay your fine, have no felony convictions, and have no pending criminal charges (misdemeanor or felony), you can likely have the misdemeanor ticket cleared from your record.

Previously, a person convicted of a nonviolent felony could only have a record expunged if there were no prior felony convictions. However, under the new law, a person with no more than two nonviolent felony convictions can possibly have those cleared if he or she has received a pardon for both offenses, has no pending charges, and 20 years have passed since the last conviction. Twenty years may be a long time to wait, but it is certainly better than never.

Another promising change allows people with misdemeanor convictions to get a deferred sentence misdemeanor expunged. Previously, a person who successfully completed a deferred sentence for a misdemeanor could have it expunged after a year if there were no misdemeanor or felony convictions or pending charges. The new law strikes misdemeanor convictions as a disqualifier.

The new law also will allow those with misdemeanor convictions to find relief up to 5 years sooner. Under existing law, a person with a misdemeanor conviction could obtain expungement eligibility after 10 years. Under the new law, those with misdemeanor convictions resulting in a fine greater than $500, a suspended sentence, or jail may become eligible for expungement after only 5 years.

And finally, the new law will expand the scope of the expungement. Current law defines expungement as the sealing of criminal records, but the new law states, "For purposes of this act, "expungement" shall mean the sealing of criminal records, as well as any public civil record, involving actions brought by and against the State of Oklahoma arising from the same arrest, transaction or occurrence."

Have you been wanting to clear your record? Do you think you might qualify under the expungement law changes that will take effect in a few months? Call 405-778-4800 for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

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