To “expunge” means to erase or remove completely something unwanted or unpleasant. A criminal record is certainly unwanted or unpleasant. Under certain circumstances, the record concerning a criminal charge or charges can be sealed and kept from public view. This process is called “expungement”. Under Oklahoma law, there are two different types of expungements.
Both types are found in Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes. The first that I discuss is the Section 991(c) Expungement, which allows for the sealing of the Court Clerk’s records after the successful completion of a deferred sentence. The second type allows for the sealing of all records concerning an arrest, including the OSBI and law enforcement records. The OSBI keeps records of arrests that are available to the public, even if no charge was filed or the charge was dismissed.
22 O S §991 (C)
The more common type of expungement which follows the successful completion of a deferred sentence is authorized by 22 O S §991 (C), which states that, “Upon completion of the conditions of the deferred judgment, and upon a finding by the court that the conditions have been met and all fines, fees, and monetary assessments have been paid as ordered, the defendant shall be discharged without a court judgment of guilt, and the court shall order the verdict or plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere to be expunged from the record and the charge shall be dismissed with prejudice to any further action”.
The statute limits the scope of the expungement by allowing that, “Records expunged pursuant to this subsection shall be sealed to the public but not to law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes. Records expunged pursuant to this subsection shall be admissible in any subsequent criminal prosecution to prove the existence of a prior conviction or prior deferred judgment without the necessity of a court order requesting the unsealing of such records”. This means that with this type of expungement, the public, but not law enforcement, will be shielded from accessing information concerning the expunged information on the internet or at the Court Clerk’s Office. The information will still be available to the general public through a request to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), unless and until you obtain a Section 18 Expungement.
22 Oklahoma Statutes §18
Under this statute, all records of an encounter with the police can be sealed. A person is authorized to file a motion for expungement if they are within one of the following categories:
The person has been acquitted;
The conviction was reversed with instructions to dismiss by an appellate court of competent jurisdiction, or an appellate court of competent jurisdiction reversed the conviction and the district attorney subsequently dismissed the charge;
The factual innocence of the person was established by the use of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence subsequent to conviction, including a person who has been released from prison at the time innocence was established;
The person has received a full pardon on the basis of a written finding by the Governor of actual innocence for the crime for which the claimant was sentenced;
The person was arrested and no charges of any type, including charges for an offense different than that for which the person was originally arrested, are filed and the statute of limitations has expired or the prosecuting agency has declined to file charges;
The person was under eighteen (18) years of age at the time the offense was committed and the person has received a full pardon for the offense;
The person was charged with one or more misdemeanor or felony crimes, all charges have been dismissed, the person has never been convicted of a felony, no misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against the person, and the statute of limitations for refiling the charge or charges has expired or the prosecuting agency confirms that the charge or charges will not be refiled; provided, however, this category shall not apply to charges that have been dismissed following the completion of a deferred judgment or delayed sentence;
The person was charged with a misdemeanor, the charge was dismissed following the successful completion of a deferred judgment or delayed sentence, the person has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, no misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against the person, and at least one (1) year has passed since the charge was dismissed;
The person was charged with a nonviolent felony offense, not listed in Section 571 of Title 57 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the charge was dismissed following the successful completion of a deferred judgment or delayed sentence, the person has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, no misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against the person, and at least ten (10) years have passed since the charge was dismissed;
The person was convicted of a misdemeanor offense, the person has not been convicted of a felony, no felony or misdemeanor charges are pending against the person, and at least ten (10) years have passed since the end of the last misdemeanor sentence;
The person was convicted of a nonviolent felony offense, not listed in Section 571 of Title 57 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the person has received a full pardon for the offense, the person has not been convicted of any other felony, the person has not been convicted of a separate misdemeanor in the last fifteen (15) years, no felony or misdemeanor charges are pending against the person, and at least ten (10) years have passed since the felony conviction; or
The person has been charged or arrested or is the subject of an arrest warrant for a crime that was committed by another person who has appropriated or used the person's name or other identification without the person's consent or authorization.
A pardon is an act of forgiveness which may be requested by an individual for a specific crime(s) that have been committed. A pardon can only be granted by the Governor after a hearing and a favorable recommendation by the majority of the Pardon and Parole Board. A pardon is necessary before a person can receive a Section 18 Expungement of a conviction for a non-violent felony offense, but a pardon does not by itself clear a criminal record. It does however, acknowledge that a person has become a law-abiding citizen after making a mistake in the past.
To obtain a pardon it is first necessary to provide the Pardon and Parole Board with a completed application, along with certified copies of all other relevant documentation. If the Pardon and Parole Board approves your application, the request for pardon will be sent to the Governor who makes the ultimate decision. A favorable outcome is by no means guaranteed, but the assistance of an experienced attorney will greatly increase the probability of success.