According to Oklahoma law, a criminal record can either be expunged or sealed under a specific set of circumstances. In our last blog, we discussed expungements in Oklahoma and went over some of the eligibility requirements that must be met in order for this to happen. Today we are going to look at a similar topic: sealed records. As an Oklahoma expungement attorney, we are often asked whether sealed records can ever be unsealed. The answer is not as straightforward as many would hope. Before we dive any deeper, it’s important to understand the difference between expunged records and sealed records:
- Expunged records are physically destroyed and removed from a person’s criminal history
- Sealed records still exist but cannot be accessed by anyone, unless a court order states otherwise
While the terms are often used interchangeably today, there are major differences between expunged records and sealed records that anyone seeking one of the two should be aware of. Please keep this in mind when researching whether or not your criminal records can be expunged or sealed, as you may come across conflicting information that can be somewhat confusing.
What is Sealing Criminal Records?
When an individual is arrested or convicted of a crime, it will appear on a public record that anyone can access. This can be detrimental to an individual’s reputation and cause issues when it comes to finding employment, renting an apartment or home, buying a car, or being approved for a mortgage. While there are restrictions in place that outline what services another person or business can deny you based on your criminal record, it can make things much more difficult. For this reason it may be in your best interest to look into having your criminal record sealed. When a record is sealed it is inaccessible to any outside parties without a court order. In some instances, it may not even show up on a background check and you have the legal right to deny the crime ever took place.
As mentioned above, there are slight differences between having your record expunged and sealed. When a record is sealed, it is still kept on file by the government, however, no one can look at it.
So, can a sealed record be unsealed? The answer is yes, but again it is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are varying state laws pertaining to unsealing a record, and the process is quite lengthy – and expensive. In most cases, courts have a fairly broad discretion when it comes to deciding which records can and cannot be unsealed. It may not be possible to have all sealed court records public, but there is an option to petition a court to have them made public once again.
If you would like to learn more about Oklahoma’s expungement and sealed records laws, please contact Worden Law Firm today. We are here to answer any questions you may have and help you determine which option is right for your case.