Clean Court Records Offer Career Benefits
Tens of thousands of individuals with Oklahoma felony records are now eligible to have their records wiped clean under a new law effective Nov. 1, 2019. The change is part of the legislature’s sweeping 2019 decision retroactively apply Oklahoma voters’ 2016 justice reform ballot initiative.
Oklahoma voters in 2016 by a wide margin reclassified simple drug possession and property crimes under $1,000 from felony offenses to misdemeanor offenses. While most misdemeanors can be expunged after five years, the legislature’s 2019 move to make the reforms retroactive also provides an accelerated path to expungement for non-violent felonies reclassified as misdemeanors.
Regardless any other prior offenses or pending charges, those reclassified offenses can be expunged 30 days after completion of a sentence. The only statutory requirement for expungement of those reclassified offenses is that restitution must be paid in full and any treatment ordered as part of the sentence must be completed.
Evolution of Oklahoma Expungement Law
Legislators have repeatedly expanded Oklahoma’s expungement laws in recent years, often citing back-to-work motivations. A criminal record with a felony conviction can be limiting for Oklahomans who are trying to move on with their lives. Many employers will not hire people who have prior felony convictions.
Felony convictions may disqualify people from voting, running for office, owning a firearm, certain housing opportunities and professional licensing certifications. Background checks are routine not only among many employers but for creditors and companies leasing housing as well.
Oklahoma lawmakers tiptoed into expungement law in 2002 when they first allowed removal of a single misdemeanor 10 years after the sentence was handed down. Non-violent felonies were also eligible for expungement that same year, but only after the person was first granted a governor’s pardon.
Starting in 1987, individuals acquitted at trial, arrested but not charged, under 18 at the time of an offense and having obtained a pardon for a conviction had been eligible to have criminal court records sealed. In 2000, the legislature added a provision for expungement of convictions reversed on appeal in 2000, but expungement remained available only for juvenile convictions and court matters not resulting in conviction.
With the emergence of forensic science technologies, legislators in 2004 added factual innocence as proven by DNA evidence to the list of circumstances qualified for expungement.
Since then, the list of qualifying circumstances has dramatically expanded while waiting times have decreased.
Current Expungement Laws In Oklahoma
Now, if a person has no felony convictions and no other felony or misdemeanor charges.
- Deferred judgments in misdemeanors can be expunged a year the charge was dismissed.
- Deferred judgments in nonviolent felonies can be expunged five years after the charge was dismissed.
- Misdemeanors resulting in fines of under $501 with no jail time or suspended sentence was imposed can be immediately expunged.
- Misdemeanors resulting in fines of more than $500 can be expunged five years after completion of the sentence.
- A single non-violent felony can be expunged five years after the charge was dismissed, if the person has no misdemeanor convictions in the past seven years.
- A second non-violent felony can be expunged 10 years after completion of the sentence provided the felonies do not require registration as a sex offender.
- Crimes committed by somone else using a stolen identity can be expunged from the innocent person’s criminal record.
The legislature in 2015 also clarified that two misdemeanor convictions arising from a single incident count as one for the sake of expungement. Wirth Law Office was instrumental in prompting that change after testing the limits of the law in an appellate case.
The 2019 addition allowing expungement of specific reclassified felonies stands out among other changes because it does to consider prior convictions or outstanding charges, and it provides an unusuallly fast track – 30 days – for convictions that otherwise could not be expunged for five or even 10 years.
Benefits of Expungement in Oklahoma
Expungement can clear the arrest records and court records related to a conviction in Oklahoma. In addition to people who have already moved forward with their lives after a felony conviction related to drug possession or a property crime valued at less than $1000, Oklahomans who benefit from the new law through commutation of a sentence or resentencing can also benefit from expungement. You can find more information on commutations and resentencing here.
As long as an individual is not serving a sentence for another crime and has already completed any court-ordered treatment program, that person may seek expungement of any record of the felony conviction thirty days after the completion of their sentence or their grant of a commuted sentence. This expungement process comes with a new expungement form written in to the law that should be used to seek expungement for these types of prior convictions.
Consult a Post-Conviction Lawyer Today – Free!
A post-conviction attorney at Wirth Law Office in Tulsa can help you move forward from a past drug possession or low-level property crime. Contact a Tulsa criminal defense attorney at the Wirth Law Office today for a free initial consultation. Call (918) 879-1681.