You probably realize that a criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor offense, brings with it a criminal record that can have a profound impact on your job prospects, educational opportunities, civil liberties, and even personal relationships. What you may not realize is that you can be burdened with the stigma of a criminal record even if your case was dismissed or even if no charges were filed against you after an arrest.
At the Law Firm of Oklahoma, we understand the struggles you face in trying to make a fresh start after a criminal conviction. We know how difficult it is to carry the burden of an arrest record or a Victim Protective Order, despite having never been convicted of any crime. You deserve a second chance, and our expungement lawyers can help you get that chance.
We have helped countless Oklahomans clear their records. If you want to erase your criminal record, we can help you understand the eligibility requirements and the petition process in order to ensure that your expungement is handled smoothly, efficiently, and effectively.
Certain occupations require a person to submit to an OSBI background check. Convicted felons are automatically excluded from certain types of employment, but even a misdemeanor conviction can cause an employer to bypass one applicant in favor of someone with a clean record.
However, job opportunities are not the only reason a person may wish to have his or her record expunged, and employers and law enforcement agents are not the only ones who have access to Oklahoma criminal records.
Oklahoma court records are publicly available online through either the Oklahoma State Courts Network database or the On Demand Court Records database. Nosy neighbors, curious co-workers, prospective dating partners, and others can quickly and easily access your record, which has the potential to bring you significant embarrassment.
Through an expungement of your record, you may be able to have your name completely removed from court records and the online databases. However, the degree of relief you may obtain depends upon the type of expungement for which you are eligible.
In Oklahoma, it is possible to get an expungement of a deferred sentence, a juvenile offense, misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, Victim Protective Orders, and prostitution arrests as a victim of human trafficking. In some cases, an expungement merely removes the defendant's name from court records after the successful completion of a deferred sentence. In other cases, a person may have his full record expunged in both court records and the OSBI database.
Although in some cases, a person must wait a prescribed number of years before becoming eligible for expungement, many circumstances allow for a person to file a petition for expungement immediately.
In general, there are two types of Oklahoma expungements:
While a full expungement is clearly more beneficial to the petitioner, there are more eligibility restrictions, and it is therefore more difficult to obtain. It is important to note that a Section 991c expungement and a Section 18 expungement are not mutually exclusive, and often, a person may receive some relief immediately upon completing a deferred sentence while awaiting eligibility to petition for a full expungement.
Record expungement is not automatic. In some cases, you must appear in the district court where your initial case was heard. In other cases, the OSBI may challenge your expungement, arguing that the public's need to know about your offense outweighs your privacy rights. In either case, petitions must be filed according to appropriate legal procedures. While state law does not mandate that you hire an attorney to handle your expungement, even the OSBI itself recommends finding legal representation for the best result in your expungement petition.
You may have heard certain "facts" about expungement, but unless you heard that information from a qualified expungement lawyer, you may have been given false information perpetuated through rumors and misconceptions about sealing a record.
For example, some people believe that certain misdemeanor offenses are automatically removed from a record after a certain number of years. This belief may come from the knowledge that certain traffic violations fall off of a driving record after a certain number of years, or credit blemishes only remain on a credit report for a prescribed length of time. Your criminal record, however, is different. In order to successfully have your record cleared, you must meet eligibility requirements and petition the court for an expungement of your record.
Others may wonder what good an expungement does if a job application asks if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Falsifying an application can lead to an applicant's rejection or denial, but under Oklahoma law, a person may "truthfully" answer that he or she has never been convicted if the record is expunged.
It is another common misconception that only misdemeanors can be expunged. While it is true that violent felonies may not be expunged, non-violent felonies, including white collar crimes, may be successfully expunged if the petitioner meets eligibility requirements.
If you believe you may be eligible for an expungement of your criminal record, call the Law Firm of Oklahoma to schedule an appointment with an Oklahoma expungement lawyer. We can review your OSBI record and eligibility requirements to help you clear your record and start over with a clean slate.