What is an expungement?
In a nutshell, an expungement prevents the public from having access to the information in your court and arrest records, effectively sealing them. If you do not qualify for an expungement, you may still qualify for a partial expungement. A partial expungement can seal a portion of your court record and change a deferred sentence to “Pled Not Guilty, Case Dismissed”.
The changes to your records will be reflected throughout OSCN.net, ODCR.com, OSBI(Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation,) Law Enforcement agencies, the Court Clerk, the Department of Corrections, and the Pardon and Parole Board. It will also effectively alter the information available through third-party reporting agencies and background checks.
This can have a tremendously positive effect on your life, giving you opportunities for better employment, improved housing, access to public assistance and even cheaper insurance. It may also restore some of your civil rights, including voting rights and gun rights.
What are the requirements?
The requirement to begin the expungement process is to be a qualified candidate. Once you document you are a qualifying individual for an expungement or even a partial expungement, you can petition the district court where the records reside. Some of the requirements to qualify necessitate that a certain length of time has elapsed since the incident and other conditions usually must be present.
What are the qualifications?
Review your arrest(s), charge(s) and conviction(s) to see if you think you might qualify. A short list of qualifying factors include:
- You were acquitted.
- You were arrested, but not charged with a crime and the allotted time has passed.
- You were charged with a crime, but the charges were completely dropped and enough time has
- Your conviction was overturned and the charges were dropped.
- You received a pardon.
- You were cleared of the crime by DNA.
- Someone else committed the crime using your name.
Other qualifications may take into account:
- You successfully completed the terms of your suspended sentence or your deferred sentence.
- You were convicted as a juvenile.
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor.
- You were convicted of a non-violent felony and can meet some additional requirements.
What are the costs?
Costs for an expungement can vary depending on which court district you must petition. Generally, the approximate costs consist of:
- OSBI Criminal History Report: $15.00
- OSBI Processing Fee: $150.00
- Approximate Court Costs: $175.00
- Petition Fee: $30.00
You may also want to consider the cost of retaining a criminal or civil rights attorney. Many attorneys throughout Oklahoma, and in particular Oklahoma City, charge very affordable flat rates. If you have a more complex case, the attorney’s fees and costs can vary. Considering the positive impact an expungement could have on your life, it is money well spent.
What’s the court process like?
The process can seem overwhelming. Hiring an attorney to guide you through the steps will make the process much smoother. The steps to be granted an expungement generally constitute:
- Gathering the documentation that proves you qualify.
- Writing a petition and filing it with the Court in the district where the incident occurred.
- A hearing will be set within 30 days of the filing of the petition by the Judge’s office.
- The state attorney’s office who filed the charges and all agencies involved must be notified of the hearing in writing.
- At the hearing, the Judge will make a ruling as to whether or not you will be granted an expungement.
The OSBI recommends that you hire an attorney to assist you through this process. It is a solid piece of advice. There are no forms available through the clerk of the court to fill out. The petition must be drafted for your particular case. In addition, all court rules and procedures must be followed. In general, Judges will not be lenient just because you don’t have an attorney.
Importance of a lawyer:
The expungement petition filed with the Court must spell out why the Judge should grant you an expungement. It must include many pieces of information for the Judge to review. That information must be organized in a manner that presents your request for an expungement in the best light possible. The petition needs to convince the Judge of several key points:
- That you are eligible for an expungement.
- That you have regret or remorse the incident.
- That you have proven yourself to be a productive, law-abiding citizen.
- That the expungement will grant much-needed relief.
- And that the benefits of the relief sought outweighs the need for the public to know about the incident.
With the right attorney, your chances of getting the expungement you deserve are far better than if you try to go it alone. From having the best possible petition filed, to following all the Court rules and procedures properly in order to ensure your money is well spent, a good attorney is a necessary and valuable partner to have at your side. Hiring an attorney will help you convince the judge that you are qualified for and deserve the benefit of the doubt and a fresh start.
Contact our firm today and let’s discuss the requirements for an expungement and whether or not you are a potential candidate.