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Are Expunged Criminal Records Destroyed?

Are Expunged Criminal Records Destroyed?

Criminal records available to the public can be much more than embarrassing. A criminal record can keep you from getting a job, renting housing, as well as certain public benefits. For some, having an Oklahoma criminal record expunged can have a big impact on their life.

In Oklahoma, an expungement refers to the sealing of a criminal arrest or conviction record. In some states, there is a distinction made between sealed criminal records and expunged criminal records. For example, in Florida, sealed records are sealed from the general public and expunged records are destroyed. [1]  However, in Oklahoma, an expungement does not mean the records will be destroyed, only sealed from general public view.  Even if the criminal record is sealed, a judge may still allow police departments, the attorney general, the district attorney or others to have access to the criminal records.

There are several different ways to expunge criminal records set forth in the criminal procedure statutes. [2]

  1. Convictions and arrest records under Section 18.
  2. Expungements available when someone has been the victim of identity theft and arrested for a crime as a result of the identity theft under Section 19a.
  3. Expungement of a victim’s protective order under Section 60.18.
  4. Expungements for delayed or deferred sentences under Section 991(c).

Even if a person meets all the statutory requirements for expungement, a judge must review the facts and decide whether the person’s interest in privacy and the harm suffered from an open record outweigh the public interest in keeping the record.

While expunged criminal records in Oklahoma will not be completely destroyed, there are still many benefits of expungement. If you obtain a Section 18 expungement, you may legally deny that your arrest ever occurred (except in certain limited situations). Additionally, unless otherwise allowed by law, you cannot be forced to list or discuss the information contained in the sealed records in an interview or application.

If you think you qualify for an expungement of your criminal record in Oklahoma, please contact our office to discuss your case.  What charges and/or arrests can be expunged, or whether the disposition allows for expungement, can be complex in some circumstances.  Contact our Tulsa criminal defense lawyer for a consultation.

[1] The case files, such as court records and police reports are destroyed. However, certain law enforcement agencies may keep a record of the charges involved.

[2] Oklahoma Statutes, Title 22 Criminal Procedure.

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