Everyone makes mistakes. For some, those mistakes are big enough that they lead to criminal convictions. Thankfully, Oklahoma law provides a path to clearing these convictions from your criminal record. The process, known as expungement, can be done one of two ways under Oklahoma Law. Not everyone is eligible to have their record expunged, and it is important to have an experienced attorney help you through this complicated process.
Benefits of Expungement
The first and most obvious benefit is the ability to pass a background check. Once your conviction is expunged, your background check should show no signs of the conviction. These background checks are prevalent when seeking employment or housing and a conviction can limit your options. Criminal records are public, so the sealing of your records will keep anyone from knowing about your past mistake. This includes employers, prospective employers, insurance companies, and lenders.
There are other benefits of expungement. Some professional licenses are not available to someone with a conviction on their record. Expungement can open doors to a career you may have thought to be closed forever. Additionally, under certain circumstances, expungement may help restore your right to own and possess firearms.
Types of Oklahoma Expungements
There are two types of expungements in Oklahoma: Section 18 expungements and Section 991(c) expungements. Section 18 expungements offer more benefits but are harder to get. Section 991(c) expungements are more limited but are available to more people. Your best bet is to consult with an attorney to determine if either option is available to you.
Section 18 Expungement in Oklahoma
A Section 18 expungement is also referred to as a “full expungement” because it is more comprehensive than a Section 991(c) expungement. For this reason, most people want a Section 18 expungement. Not surprisingly though, they are more difficult to obtain than Section 991(c) expungements. To receive a Section 18 expungement, you must file an application with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). If granted, your criminal record would be sealed to the public but still available to law enforcement under certain circumstances.
Section 18 originally required one of twelve conditions to be met for expungement to be granted. However, a change in the law that goes into effect in November of 2018 expands that list to 14. The grounds for expungement include such factors as being pardoned for actual innocence, being originally charged for a crime another person committed while impersonating you, or being acquitted at trial.
Section 991(c) Expungement in Oklahoma
Section 991(c) expungements are not as comprehensive as those under Section 18. Section 991(c) expungements are used in conjunction with guilty pleas. Typically, you are eligible for a Section 991(c) expungement once you complete the conditions of your plea agreement. However, these expungements don't completely erase your criminal history.
Under Section 991(c), once your request is granted, the disposition of your criminal case will be changed from “pled guilty” to “pled not guilty, case dismissed.” While there are benefits to having your record reflect your case was dismissed, the fact remains that there is still a record of the case. What's more, the record of your underlying arrest is still part of the public record.