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Common Questions about Expungements

Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. LSC Funded

Frequently Asked Questions (click + to expand)

What does expunge mean? +

Expunge means to remove a record from public view. Most expunged records are about an arrest or conviction.

If your records are expunged, no one from the public will see your record (unless you give them permission). But depending on your situation, law enforcement and certain authorities may still be able to see your record.

Is it a good idea to expunge a criminal record? +

Probably. A criminal record can make it hard to:

  • Get a job,
  • Rent an apartment or home (especially in public housing), and
  • Get or keep public benefits, like food stamps or disability income.

Can anyone expunge his or her criminal record? +

No.  The law is complicated. Every situation is different. A lawyer can give you legal advice about how the law applies to you specifically but you need your OSBI Criminal History Report first.

  • If you were convicted of a violent felony, you are not eligible.
  • If you were convicted of a NON-violent felony, you may be eligible.  You may have to get a pardon first, depending on your situation.
  • If you received a suspended sentence, you may have to get a pardon first, depending on your situation.
  • If you received a deferred sentence for a non-violent offense, you should talk to a lawyer about your situation. You may qualify without having to get a pardon first.
  • If it was a misdemeanor, you may qualify to have the arrest and court records expunged.

How do I ask for an expungement? +

The law is complicated. It can be hard to find all of the information you need.  You should talk with a lawyer about your specific situation.

When you are ready, follow these steps:

  1. File a request (petition) at the court clerk's office in the county where the charges were filed.
  2. The clerk will give you a hearing date. That’s when you will go to court and answer the judge’s questions.
  3. Before the hearing, you must serve a copy of your petition to the district attorney, the agency that arrested you, and the OSBI.
  4. Go to the hearing. The judge will expunge your records if:
    •  You meet the legal requirements, and
    •  S/he finds that the harm to your privacy outweighs a public interest in keeping the records available to the public.
  5. If the judge agrees to expunge your records, s/he will make an order to remove your records from public view. S/he may also decide to remove only some of your records and/or limit who can access your records.

How do I know if I qualify for expungement? +

You must get a copy of your complete criminal history report. The information on your report, along with court records, will determine if you qualify or not.
The law is complicated. It can be hard to find all of the information you need.  You should talk with a lawyer about your specific situation.

The section, Get Your Records, explains how to do this.

Do I need a lawyer? +

If you think you qualify for a Section 18 expungement, talk to a lawyer. Take a copy of your OSBI record to your appointment.

If you are low income, you may qualify for free legal help through Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. You will still have to pay any court filing fees, the fee to get your OSBI Criminal History Report ($15) and the fee to have the arrest records expunged by the OSBI ($150).
 

Can a violent felony be expunged? +

No. Violent felonies cannot be expunged. If you were convicted or charged with a felony that is not listed here, you may qualify for expungement only if you get a pardon from the Governor first. 

Get a copy of your OSBI record, and talk to a lawyer about your situation.

Do I have to go to court for a Section 18 expungement? +

Yes. There will be a hearing. A judge must decide each case before making any orders.

If the court expunges my record, can I legally say I was never arrested? +

With a Section 18 expungement (with very few exceptions):

  • You can say that you do not have a criminal record.
  • No one can make you reveal what’s in your expunged records.
  • No one can deny you a job or housing because you refuse to reveal your records.

Remember: If you testify in court, law enforcement will be able to see your expunged records. They may use them to discredit your testimony. Always talk to a lawyer about your record before you appear in court as a witness or in a court case.

Can law enforcement still see my records? +

Law enforcement WILL ALWAYS be able to see your record. Law enforcement will always have access to fingerprint records.

Will an expungement remove every record of the crime? +

No. Private sector records, such as newspaper reports, will still be available.  Law enforcement WILL ALWAYS be able to see your record.

All expungements remove your record from public view by looking at online court records on OSCN or ODCR or going to the courthouse.

A 991(C) expungement (deferred or delayed sentences) will remove the record from public court records.  The OSBI record will report:

• Plead Not Guilty, Case dismissed

All other types of expungements will remove the arrest and/or conviction record from the OSBI Criminal History Report. They will report "no such record exists" when they receive an inquiry.

Remember:

  • Any charges, arrests or convictions NOT eligible for expungement will still appear on your record.
  • Law enforcement WILL ALWAYS be able to see your record. That means if you are charged with another crime, law enforcement can use those records as proof of a prior conviction or deferred sentence.
  • Newspaper or online reports from private sources will still be available.

How does this affect my credit report? +

You can ask each of the three credit reporting agencies, allows you to get a free copy of your report every 12 months.

That means you can ask each one of the three agencies for a free report every 4 months.

After you obtain an expungement and send in the Order to the OSBI, you should order a free credit report.

See this page to learn how: Annual Credit Report - Get it, Fix it here: http://oklaw.org/resource/annual-credit-report?ref=vMMxx

If your arrest record is still on your report, order a copy of your updated arrest record. 

Send the updated record to each of the THREE reporting agencies and ask them to update their reports.  The resource above has information about fixing your credit report. 
If you have been a victim of ID Theft, this page will help you with letters to write to the Credit Bureau:  Writing Identity Theft Letters

Will Legal Aid help me? +

Yes. If you are low-income, a Legal Aid lawyer or volunteer lawyer may be able to help you by reviewing your OSBI Criminal History Record to see if your old records qualify under the expungement law in Oklahoma.  This is only for Oklahoma arrests or convictions. We cannot help with out of state records.

You must:

  • get your OSBI Criminal History Report
  • call Legal Aid to see if we can help you. Call 888-534-5243, Mon - Thurs, 9 am to noon & 1 pm to 4 pm
  • be able to pay the OSBI fee to record the final court Order. $150.00
  • be able to talk with the lawyer on the phone
  • be able to follow the directions and go to court by yourself.
  • Legal Aid cannot represent or help everyone who asks for help.
  • In some, very limited cases, a Legal Aid lawyer will represent you.

 

Last Review and Update: Jul 25, 2019
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