You know that your Oklahoma criminal record lists any misdemeanor or felony convictions. You may not realize that your record also includes any protective orders against you, dismissed charges, and even arrests that did not result in any criminal charges. Clearly, your convictions can have a negative impact on your image and your employment opportunities, but you may also be held back by a record of crimes you did not even commit.
If an ex-spouse filed an emergency Victim Protective Order against you in order to gain an advantage in a custody dispute, that wrongful order could cause you embarrassment for years to come. If you were arrested for a crime but later released without any charges being filed against you, your arrest record can still cast you under suspicion when employers check your background with the OSBI. You also may have made foolish mistakes in the past, as a juvenile or a young adult, and those mistakes are making it difficult to move forward with your life.
If you were given a deferred sentence, and you have successfully completed your probation, you may have already achieved some relief from your record through a Section 991c expungement. However, you may soon realize that while your name has been stricken from court records and the disposition of your case updated to reflect a not guilty plea and a dismissal, your arrest record remains on file with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
In the above cases, you may be eligible for an expungement of your OSBI record under 22 O.S. 18. While there are some circumstances under which law enforcement agents may have access to your record with a court order, in general, a Section 18 expungement is considered to be a full expungement of your Oklahoma criminal record.
Not everyone will qualify for a Section 18 expungement, but for those who do, it can bring immeasurable relief from a record that hinders job prospects and destroys personal relationships. With a clean record, your name will not show up in an employment background check or a court record search by a nosy or curious acquaintance.
Those who are convicted of violent felonies or felony sex crimes subject to Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration are not eligible for record expungement; however, full expungement is not exclusive to those convicted of misdemeanors. Individuals with convictions for non-violent felonies, such as white collar crimes, may also qualify for expungement.
Title 22 Section 18 of the Oklahoma statutes identifies those who are eligible to petition the court for an expungement of their criminal record. In order to be authorized to file a motion for expungement, a person must belong to one of the following categories:
In general, when a record is sealed pursuant to Section 18, it is purged and no longer available to the public or law enforcement. However, records expunged under items 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 may be viewable by law enforcement agents for the purpose of law enforcement activity. Those expunged pursuant to items 8, 9, 10, and 11 are admissible in court without a court order as evidence of prior convictions.
In addition to the categories defined in Section 18, victims of human trafficking are eligible for expungement of prostitution offenses under 22 O.S. 19c:
"The court, upon its own motion or upon petition by the defendant and for good cause shown, may enter an order for expungement of law enforcement and court records relating to a charge or conviction for a prostitution-related offense committed as a result of the defendant having been a victim of human trafficking. . . . Records expunged pursuant to this section shall be sealed to the public but not to law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes."
A Section 18 expungement does not occur automatically just because you have been found not guilty, you have been proven innocent by post-conviction DNA evidence, or ten years of good behavior have lapsed since your conviction.
In order to obtain an expungement of your record, you must petition the court that handled your criminal case. Once the petition is filed, the court will order a hearing, providing 30 days notice to the district attorney, the OSBI, the arresting agency, and any other parties the court believes to have an interest in the case. These agencies have the right to challenge your expungement.
It is important to hire an attorney to accurately follow the necessary procedures for filing a petition for expungement and to represent you in your expungement hearing.
To find out more about pardons and expungement, schedule a free consultation with an experience expungement lawyer at the Law Firm of Oklahoma. We can help you clear your record and make a clean start.