As anyone who has been convicted of a crime can tell you, a criminal record can have seriously damaging effects on all sorts of things, from employment, to education, to housing.

The good news is that in the state of Oklahoma, you can have your record cleaned up by “expunging” criminal convictions, if you’re eligible. This can open up all sorts of opportunities for you, as well as prevent the public from glimpsing into a past you may not want them to view.

But often, when discussing the expungement process, people confuse the concepts of expunging a conviction and sealing their records. So what exactly is the difference?

Expungement in Oklahoma

Criminal records unfortunately burden many people’s lives. Having a conviction on your record can provide barriers to accessing any of the following:

  • employment
  • education
  • housing
  • public benefits such as welfare
  • disability income
  • individual privacy

In Oklahoma, expungement will prevent any trace of your criminal record from showing up to anyone other than law enforcement, which can open up countless opportunities that may have been closed off before.

While it’s possible to fill out all the paperwork and file for an expungement by yourself, it’s recommended that you do so with an experienced attorney by your side. In addition, the fees can add up to as much as $350 or more when taking into account all the processing fees and court costs.

The difference between expungement and sealing

In general, sealing someone’s criminal record means that the general public, including many people who would normally conduct background checks like employers or landlords, can’t access records of a person’s criminal convictions.

Expungement, on the other hand, means that records of a criminal conviction are destroyed altogether. In the eyes of the court, that conviction never existed.

This may seem like it’s only a semantic difference with the same basic outcome either way. Indeed, in Oklahoma, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

However, in some cases, there can be a difference between sealing a person’s record and expunging their conviction altogether. For example, sealed records may be available to some employers in the public sector that an expunged conviction would not be. Read more to find out about who can view your criminal record after you’ve gotten it expunged.

Who is eligible for expungement?

In order to qualify for expungement, you must meet one of the requirements, which include but aren’t limited to:

  • You were arrested, but the charges were dropped
  • The case was dismissed
  • You were found innocent
  • You were pardoned
  • You were under 18 when the crime was committed
  • You completed your sentence for a minor crime you plead guilty to
  • You completed probation or had a delayed sentence
  • Someone who stole your identity committed the crime

If you think you meet any of these requirements, contact an attorney to discuss the expungement process.

Hire an expungement attorney in Oklahoma City today

Don’t let a past mistake stand in the way of your future. If you think you might qualify for an expungement, it’s time to start gathering up your paperwork and talking to an attorney about it. Contact Jacqui Ford’s law firm today for help.