Q&A with David Slane
Law allows people to clear
their record of some mistakes
Q: Since Nov. 1, it's easier for a person to clean up his criminal record through a procedure called expungement. How does the process work?
A: A person files a request with the court to have his records expunged. This involves two things: It erases the arrest record and seals the court records. Currently, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation maintains a record when you're arrested in Oklahoma. So, basically, this seals and erases both the arrest and the probationary term of the charge.
Q: Can anyone with a record have their slates wiped clean?
A: No. Expungements are allowed only under certain circumstance. Typically, if a person were found not guilty by a jury, or if DNA cleared them from a crime, or if they were pardoned, or if the case was dismissed within one year of the arrest, then they are eligible for an expungement.
Now the law has been loosened to allow a person with a misdemeanor who has received a “deferred adjudication,” meaning two years probation without a conviction, to have their records expunged after two years. It also allows for nonviolent felonies to be expunged after 10 years. And it allows for misdemeanor convictions to be expunged after 10 years so long as the person hasn't gotten in any more trouble.
Q: What are the benefits of being granted an expungement?
A: It's important to get a record cleared because many employers, educational institutions and housing and banking institutions often will perform background checks before deciding to hire someone or lease property to a renter. The other thing is, currently, on the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network there's a court file maintained on every case in the district courthouse. If you get an expungement, those court records are sealed by court order, so no one can look at them. Further, they remove them from the OSCN so no one can query your name.
Q: Does a person need a lawyer to do this? And if so, is it costly?
A: You don't have to have a lawyer, but I'd recommend it in most circumstances. It's not costly. And it may save you from losing a good job or being passed over for a promotion.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER