How Does A Guilty Plea Or Plea Bargain Impact My Eligibility For An Expungement In Oklahoma
The expungement process can be incredibly beneficial to Oklahoma residents looking to move on from their criminal history without the life complications that often arise with a criminal record. Benefits of a record expungement range from better access to career opportunities, education, and property rental, to regaining your right to carry a firearm and no more concerns about community members or your social circle digging into your past.
It can be difficult to establish whether you are eligible for an expungement, as the criteria are extensive and complicated. Typically, this inaccessibility and the fear of ineligibility can hold individuals back from starting the process. A common misconception is that only those who have been acquitted or had their case dismissed are eligible to expunge their criminal records. However, this is not the case. Even individuals with a criminal conviction can be eligible to apply.
Although a guilty plea or plea bargain can have an effect on expungement, it does not completely exclude an individual from being eligible for the expungement process. In fact, depending on your sentence, there could be more than one potential expungement route available to you.
If you plead guilty or took a plea bargain, you may still be able to seek expungement under specific circumstances. Often, individuals take a plea bargain in return for a deferred sentence. Once a deferred sentence is successfully completed, an individual’s criminal case is usually dismissed. Individuals who received a deferred sentence could be eligible for at least a partial expungement upon completion of their deferred sentence and court requirements. This approach can often be used as a temporary fix until you can apply for a full expungement.
If you did not receive a deferred sentence, you could still apply for an expungement if you meet the criteria, and pleading guilty or taking a plea bargain does not exclude you from this. Oklahoma law on expungement and the specific eligibility criteria are complex and often challenging to navigate alone. Factors such as the offense, the penalties you received, the time that has passed since your sentence, and your criminal history can influence expungement eligibility.
Securing representation from an experienced Oklahoma expungement attorney will help you understand how the specific expungement criteria apply to you and the options available to seal your criminal record. Similarly, experienced representation will ensure that you are prepared for any complications and challenges that come your way and threaten your potential expungement.
At Cannon & Associates, we have helped countless Oklahoma residents successfully expunge their criminal records and experience the freedom that comes with a clear criminal history. The social stigma and barriers that an individual with a criminal record can face are often disproportionate to the offense they have the record for in the first place. The Cannon & Associates attorneys are fierce advocates for our client’s rights and will work tirelessly to secure the best possible outcome in your expungement case and help you start a new life chapter.
To take the first step towards leaving your burdensome criminal record behind, schedule a free consultation with our skilled expungement attorneys by calling Cannon & Associates today at 405-591-3935.
Potential Repercussions Of A Criminal Record
A background check is a frequently used means of gathering more information on an individual. Depending on the level of background check, these reports can include an individual’s criminal convictions, civil cases, arrests, protective orders, and even education history. Background checks are used widely throughout today’s society by employers, financial agencies, and landlords, to name a few. When an individual’s criminal history is highlighted on a background check, it can cause many complications.
Any level of criminal history can cause problems. An individual may find their criminal record is used against them in family law court or civil proceedings or impacts their ability to borrow money to buy a home or finance a vehicle. Similarly, landlords are often reluctant to rent a property to anyone with a criminal background.
Possibly the greatest issue that arises from a criminal record is how it impacts an individual’s ability to find work, access further education, and build a career. Even if your criminal background does not automatically disqualify you from a position, often, it can make you a less desirable candidate in the eyes of a potential employer. This can simply mean you are less competitive in comparison to other applicants, and as such, you can lose out on opportunities.
Additionally, another downside to a criminal record is the social stigma that an individual may face if their record makes it into the public domain. Most criminal records are public records in Oklahoma, and a friend, acquaintance, potential business partner, or interested community member may be able to access your history. This can cause significant reputational risk and affect your confidence, self-esteem, and relationships with others. A criminal history can also exclude you from everyday activities that you wouldn’t expect, such as helping out at your child’s school or supervising a school event, owning a firearm, and even finding an insurance policy.
Under the United States Civil Rights Act, employers must individually assess how a criminal background relates to the potential job role available. As such, you can’t be immediately disqualified from a possible position based on your criminal record, but it could still count against you and cause you to lose out on opportunities.
An expungement can relieve the burden of a criminal record and help individuals move on with their life without living in the shadow of their past. One main benefit of an expunged record is the increased access to employment opportunities and career development that could have previously been inaccessible to you.
Under Oklahoma Statute 22-19, an employer is generally not permitted to ask applicants about expunged or sealed criminal history records. Additionally, if a candidate chooses not to disclose a sealed or expunged record, this usually can’t be held against them or used as justification to turn them down for the job. Some exceptions apply, such as in specific federal agencies, but in general, you are under no obligation to disclose a fully expunged record.
Alongside employment benefits, a fully expunged record will not appear on any third-party background checks, thus no longer hindering borrowing money, renting a property, applying to college, and volunteering, to name a few. An expungement may also mean you are permitted to carry a firearm again, and you no longer have to be concerned about nosy neighbors digging into your past.
What Is Stored On Your Oklahoma Criminal Background Records?
Many people are surprised to learn the amount of information and incidents that are stored within your criminal history records at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). Although you may think your criminal record only contains details of any criminal convictions, it goes far beyond that. This means that you may have a criminal record without ever being charged. This information may still be highlighted on a background check by a potential employer or landlord and can cause you challenges in everyday life.
Although a criminal record does not always equate to guilt, often, the social discrimination is the same, regardless of whether you even received a charge or were found not guilty.
Most people are aware that your criminal record includes details of any criminal convictions you have received. A criminal conviction is an adjudication of an individual’s guilt. A conviction may be added to your record if you have been charged and found guilty of an offense or pled guilty to a charge in criminal court.
In addition to any convictions and legal findings of guilt, your Oklahoma criminal record can include details of any arrests. Your arrest record may maintain detailed information on any incidents you have been arrested for and the reason for the arrest, even if this didn’t lead to a charge. Although an arrest is not a finding of guilt, sometimes, if a previous arrest appears on a background check, this can still carry a stigma and leave a black mark against an individual’s name. For example, publicly available arrest records can still hamper your chances of employment.
Unfortunately, you do not necessarily have to commit a crime to be arrested. Often a misunderstanding at a scene or an argument that has escalated, for example, can lead to an arrest. Law enforcement may use an arrest to diffuse a situation and avoid any further conflict, but this means that an innocent individual could be left with a permanent arrest mark on their record.
Details of any restraining orders or victim protection orders taken out against you will appear on a background check in Oklahoma. Although a protection order is usually a civil matter, not a criminal offense, likely, it will still be highlighted on a background check through court records.
Often, a protection or restraining order can be particularly problematic in the public domain. Such an order can give the impression of violent or aggressive behavior, which is not always an accurate representation of the situation that took place. Individuals with a protection order on their record can find the associated judgment and discrimination particularly challenging in both social and professional settings. A historic protection order may still appear on a background check years after it has expired and is no longer active.
While you have an active victim protection order against you in Oklahoma, you are not legally permitted to own or use a firearm. Applying for an expungement is often the most effective method of reinstating your right to possess a firearm.
Who Can Access Your Criminal History Records?
The State of Oklahoma has specific legislation focussed on access to criminal records. Under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, criminal records are available to the public. Interested members of the public can file a request with the OSBI to access criminal records. Although the OSBI takes steps to protect the privacy of individuals, this does not mean that an interested party can’t find details of your previous arrests, convictions, and court records.
Mostly, background checks and criminal record searches are conducted by potential future employers, landlords, educators, and money lenders. However, members of the general public with an interest may be able to view your records through the internet or by applying to the OSBI. This could even include an inquisitive neighbor or your new partner’s family.
A background check will provide the enquiring party with information on charges, arrests, and convictions. Specific information can include the charge, the date of the offense, the severity of the charge, the disposition, and the sentence received.
How Does Expungement Work In Oklahoma?
Following a successful expungement, an individual’s criminal record is removed from the public domain and is no longer readily accessible. Usually, the only people able to access an expunged record include law enforcement agencies and criminal justice agencies.
The two most common routes of expungement in Oklahoma are Section 18 expungements or a full expungement, and section 911(c) expungements that apply specifically to those who received a deferred sentence. Other types of expungement apply for protective orders, in cases of stolen identity, and for crimes committed as a result of human trafficking.
Expungement Under Section 18
A section 18 expungement in Oklahoma is sometimes known as a full record expungement. A successful expungement process under section 18 will permanently seal your court records, including arrests and criminal convictions, from public availability. A record expunged under section 18 can only be viewed by a small group of agencies under specific circumstances. For example, no records will appear in a standard background check from an employer.
Usually, a record expunged under section 18 can only be accessed by the court or a law enforcement agency. An expunged record may be admissible as evidence of a criminal history in a subsequent criminal prosecution or used by law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes.
Once you have successfully completed the section 18 expungement process, in most situations, you are legally permitted to deny that the offense ever took place if asked. Your record will be completely sealed and unavailable for public access.
Section 18 Criteria
A full expungement is not always applicable to every criminal offense. Oklahoma Statutes outline eligibility criteria that must apply to any individual’s case to allow them to file for a section 18 expungement.
If an individual satisfies one of the below criteria, they may be able to apply for their criminal record to be expunged:
- You were acquitted of the charges.
- Your factual innocence was proved through the use of DNA.
- You received a full pardon from the Governor based upon a written finding of innocence.
- You successfully appealed your conviction, the conviction was reversed, and your case was dismissed.
- You were arrested but no subsequent charges were filed. The district attorney or prosecuting agency has confirmed they will not be filing charges, or the statute of limitations for that offense has expired.
- The felony or misdemeanor charges you were facing have been dismissed, you have never received a felony conviction, you have no pending charges, and the statute of limitations has expired, or the prosecution has confirmed they will not refile charges.
- You were under the age of 18 when the offense was committed, and you have since received a full pardon.
- You were charged with a misdemeanor and received a deferred sentence, the charge was dismissed upon completion of the deferred sentence, and at least two years have passed since dismissal. You must have also received no misdemeanor or felony convictions and not have charges pending against you.
- Your non-violent felony charge was dismissed upon successful completion of a deferred sentence, and at least ten years have passed since the charge was dismissed. You are only eligible if you have also received no further misdemeanor or felony charges and have no pending charges.
- You received a full pardon for a non-violent felony and at least ten years have passed since the conviction. Again, you must have no further charges or pending charges.
- At least five years have passed since you were convicted of a misdemeanor, and you have not been convicted of any other felony or misdemeanor offenses or have any pending charges. An individual may not be required to wait for five years if their penalties included a fine of less than $500 and no term of incarceration or a suspended sentence.
- You were convicted of a non-violent felony offense and have not been convicted of another felony or misdemeanor in the last seven years, and at least five years have passed since the completion of the felony conviction sentence.
- You were convicted of two or fewer felonies, none of which are listed in Section 13.1 title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes or required you to be registered as a sex offender. At least ten years have passed since the completion of your last sentence, and you have received no more charges or pending charges.
- You were arrested or charged for an offense that was committed by another individual who was illegally using your identity.
Expungement Under Section 991(c)
One main factor of a section 18 expungement is that individuals who have been charged with a violent felony will usually not be applicable for this type of expungement unless they have since been acquitted, exonerated through DNA, successfully appealed their conviction, or received a pardon. However, if you were facing a felony or misdemeanor conviction, but received a deferred sentence, you could be eligible for a possible expungement under section 991(c), if you can’t currently apply under section 18.
Many individuals apply for a section 991(c), or partial expungement, as an intermediary fix until they are eligible for a full expungement. For example, an individual may have to wait from one to five years after the completion of their deferred sentence before they can apply for an expungement under section 18. However, they could apply for a section 991(c) expungement in the meantime to provide temporary relief and reduce the burden of a criminal record on their daily life.
A section 991(c) expungement applies to individuals who have received and successfully completed a deferred or delayed sentence from the court. An individual must have complied with the terms and conditions outlined by the court for a case dismissal at the end of their deferred sentence to be eligible for a section 991 expungement.
A section 18 expungement will seal your entire arrest record and court record. However, a section 991 expungement will expunge your plea and update the disposition of your case to reflect that the case was dismissed. Your arrest record will still be available, but the court records will read ‘pled not guilty, case dismissed’.
A section 991 expungement differs from a section 18 in that your arrest and court record may still appear on a background check, and you are not legally permitted to deny your criminal history. However, you can say that you pled not guilty, you were not convicted, and your case was dismissed.
Expungement Eligibility In Oklahoma
The main factors affecting whether you are eligible to file for an expungement in Oklahoma include the type of offense, whether you were charged or convicted, the sentence you received, and how long since you were convicted, to name a few. An experienced attorney can review the specific circumstances of your case and advise on your eligibility and what expungement might apply to you.
How Does A Guilty Plea Or Plea Bargain Affect Eligibility?
A guilty plea does not completely exclude you from being able to expunge your criminal record at a later date. If you pled guilty and were convicted of a misdemeanor charge, you may be eligible to expunge your record once a certain period of time has passed since the conviction. The exact amount of time can vary depending on the penalties received. You must also have not been convicted of another offense since and have no pending charges.
Similarly, you could apply to expunge a non-violent felony conviction if you have received no further convictions in the past seven years and five years have passed since your sentence was completed.
A plea bargain can affect eligibility for expungement, but this is also dependent on the type of offense and the sentence you received. If you took a plea bargain in exchange for a deferred sentence, you may be able to expunge the record in the future under section 991. Your offense may also be eligible for a complete expungement under section 18 if it was a misdemeanor or non-violent felony conviction.
Offenses That Can’t Be Expunged
To be eligible to expunge a criminal record in Oklahoma, an individual must be able to prove that an expungement will not have an adverse effect on the public interest and safety. As such, Oklahoma law does not permit expungement for certain offenses when it may not be in the public interest. This can include sex offenses and violent felony offenses.
Most felony sexual offenses are ineligible for an expungement in Oklahoma. If you have been convicted of an offense that requires you to be listed on the sex offenders registry, you will not be able to expunge your record.
The Oklahoma Sex Offenders Registration Act was designed to raise awareness of sex offenders within the community for the purposes of public safety. As a result, an expungement for such sexual offenses would not align with the objectives of the Oklahoma sex offender law, and could potentially pose a risk to the public interest. Common sexual offenses ineligible for expungement include attempted rape, rape, child abuse, and sexual assault.
Felony convictions classified as violent offenses are not eligible for expungement in Oklahoma. Common convictions that fall into the category of violent crimes and typically can’t be expunged include murder, manslaughter, assault and battery with a deadly weapon, burglary in the first degree, robbery, armed robbery, domestic abuse by strangulation, and domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Not all crimes that would typically be considered violent are listed on the specific list of violent crimes in the context of expungement in Oklahoma. Similarly, some offenses that may not initially be thought of as violent are on the list and cannot be expunged. Seek advice from an attorney to understand whether your charge is deemed violent and whether you are eligible for an expungement.
Cannon & Associates Expungement Attorneys
Cannon & Associates Oklahoma City expungement attorneys strongly believe in the expungement process and how it can improve an individual’s future outlook. We are diligent and thorough during expungement cases, satisfying all requirements and procedures for a smooth and efficient process.
Our extensive experience in expungement cases in Oklahoma allows us to evaluate every individual’s circumstances for any possible expungement eligibility criteria that may apply. Often, we find our clients are eligible when they didn’t think they were or have less time to wait than they originally thought. This is common due to how complex expungement law is and how difficult it can be to digest and apply to your own situation without professional legal advice.
If our client is not yet eligible for a full expungement, we may be able to use approaches, such as partial expungement, to relieve some of the burdens of their criminal record until they are fully eligible. Once our client is eligible, we are poised and ready to begin the full expungement process as soon as possible for them.
In specific cases, you may need to be prepared to fight for your expungement and defend yourself against any challenges from the district attorney, OSBI, and other local agencies. A challenge or objection does not mean that your expungement will be denied. However, it does mean that you must present a compelling argument to the court that your expungement does not threaten public interest and should be approved.
At Cannon & Associates, we believe that expungement can be an essential element of moving on from a crime that allows individuals to turn their life around and start a new chapter without their past hindering them.
Start Your Journey To A Clear Criminal Background Today!
The laws around expungement in Oklahoma are complex. It can be challenging to understand if and when you are eligible to file. If you attempt to file before you are eligible, or are ineligible for the type of expungement you applied for, your case can be dismissed, which could cost you time and fees. In addition, once you have filed, there are strict procedures and processes in place that you must follow for a successful case.
The expungement rate in Oklahoma and across the United States is low. Often, this is because of the inaccessibility of the process to the general public and the complications they are likely to face. It is unfortunate that the rate of successful expungement is so low, given the potential benefits an expunged record can bring to an individual’s life.
A successful record expungement can open many doors to you that have felt closed for a long time, and an expungement could be more accessible to you than you realize. Do not waste any more time having your life hampered by a criminal record that you may be able to seal.
Even if you are concerned that your plea or conviction could exclude you, you won’t know until you ask. Schedule a no-risk, free consultation with a Cannon & Associates OKC expungement attorney to discuss your eligibility.
To start your Oklahoma expungement process, book your free consultation today by calling our team at 405-591-3935.
Oklahoma Expungement Frequently Asked Questions
Can an expungement be denied?
The District Attorney, local law enforcement agencies, and the OSBI must be notified of an application before an expungement is approved by the court. These agencies, or any interested party, can object to an expungement if they do not believe that an expungement is in the public interest.
At an expungement hearing, a Judge will make the final decision on whether to approve an expungement application. If the court believes that the public interest of retaining the record outweighs the downsides to the individual of maintaining their criminal record, an expungement can be denied.
You may be required to provide a compelling argument to the court to defend your application and prove that an expungement will not adversely affect the public interest. Securing skilled representation from a reputable expungement attorney will ensure that you are prepared for any challenges and give you the best chance of a successful outcome.
How long after the offense will I have to wait for an expungement?
The exact amount of time you could be required to wait before expunging your criminal record will depend upon several circumstances, including the nature of the offense, whether you were convicted, and the sentence you received.
For example, for an arrest record that was not followed by a charge, you could be eligible for expungement once the district attorney has confirmed that they do not intend to pursue charges or once the statute of limitations for that offense has expired.
Alternatively, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense, and the penalty you received was a fine of over $500, incarceration, or a suspended sentence, you may need to wait five years before applying for an expungement. If the misdemeanor penalty you received was a fine of less than $500, and you have successfully paid the fine, you could apply for an expungement immediately after paying the fine.
If you were convicted of a non-violent felony, you must receive no further convictions for seven years and wait five years before applying.
Prior felony convictions and misdemeanors can affect eligibility and may also increase the time you will need to wait before applying to expunge a record.
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