Expungements allow those arrested, charged, or convicted of certain crimes in Oklahoma to clear their records. For many people, an expungement is the only way to fully move forward after a past criminal allegation or conviction. An arrest record or criminal record can turn up in background checks and hinder personal and professional opportunities. When the slate is clean, a person no longer feels haunted or hampered by the stigma of a criminal record.
Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions about eligibility and the expungement process. Following are the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about expungements in Oklahoma:
What is an expungement?
There are two types of expungements in Oklahoma, each with different eligibility requirements and each with varying degrees of completeness. A Section 18/19 expungement is considered a full expungement, removing both court records and the arrest record on file with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). The second type of expungement is a Section 991(c) expungement. This type is easier to obtain and therefore the most common. It frequently occurs after successful completion of a deferred sentence. In this case, court records are updated to reflect a plea of "not guilty" and a disposition of "case dismissed." The subject's name is deleted from public court records.
How can an expungement of my record help me?
Many people have tremendous difficulty in finding employment, gaining admission to educational institutions, renting an apartment, or securing a financial loan because of the criminal records that show up in background checks. Expunging the record can provide relief and remove the blemish from one's reputation.
Doesn't the offense "fall off" my record after a certain time?
Absolutely not. This is a common misconception, based in part on certain eligibility requirements that necessitate a predetermined amount of time without a criminal complaint following the offense before one may petition for expungement. Criminal records are never automatically expunged. In every case, the subject of the record must petition the court for expungement.
If I meet the qualifications, and I petition the court, will my expungement automatically be approved?
No. The OSBI has the right to challenge any expungement, and they will do so if they think that the public interest is best served by keeping a particular set of records open.
Can I file a petition for expungement myself, or do I have to hire a lawyer?
There is no mandate to hire a lawyer for expungement. Theoretically, you could handle the petition yourself. However, it is important to bear in mind that the process, which is entirely new to you, is routine for an experienced attorney. He or she will know the important timelines, processes, and details that must be fulfilled in order to successfully obtain expungement of a criminal record. Furthermore, it is important to remember that your expungement request may be challenged. Legal representation is critical for the maximum chance of success.
An Expungement is Not a Pardon
Expuncion of your record is NOT the same as a pardon. Here is an article to help you understand the difference between an expungement and a pardon.