Expungement: how to keep a youthful mistake from haunting you

The process of expungement can help you clear your criminal record to prevent mistakes from putting a damper on your future.

According to data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other sources, approximately one out of every three Americans will be arrested by age 23. Clearly, not all of those cases are adjudicated, or our justice system would be even more overwhelmed than it already is. Some people may think it's no big deal, but an arrest - even if no charges are ever brought or the person is found "not guilty" - can actually have a lasting impact on a person's life.

A criminal history of any type could result in lost employment opportunities, the inability to secure private funding for an education or a mortgage, being denied rental properties, losing out on volunteer or leadership positions and public stigma. The impact can last for years after the arrest or conviction, but this doesn't mean that all hope is lost. It may be possible to have your arrest or conviction sealed from public disclosure in certain circumstances through the process of expungement.

A real-world example

Let's assume that a recent college graduate - we'll call him "Joe" - is excited about his future. He just received his degree, and is looking for full-time employment in his field of study. He has submitted many applications and resumes, but is having difficulty finding work despite being at the top of his class, having internships and being highly recommended by faculty and former associates. Finally, one hiring manager tells him that, if only he didn't have a criminal record, he'd be the perfect candidate.

At first, Joe is taken aback. Criminal record? What criminal record? Then, he remembers back to his freshman year, when he was arrested for disturbing the peace during a raucous party off campus. No charges were brought against him in the end, and he honestly assumed that was the end of it. Now, however, he realizes that his youthful mistake could have a lasting impact on his future. What should he do?

Hope in the form of expungement

After doing some research and calling his local court, Joe learns about the possibility of sealing his criminal record through expungement. Expungement is a process by which, if you meet certain criteria outlined in Oklahoma law (see Oklahoma Statutes Title 22, Section 18), your criminal history can be sealed from public view. Law enforcement and court personnel will still be able to view your records if you are involved in any legal proceedings, but they will be hidden from public disclosure during routine background checks, and you will truthfully be able to answer "no" to any questions asking if you have been arrested. For most intents and purposes, it'll be like the arrest or conviction never happened.

Expungement isn't guaranteed for everyone; there are some offenses that cannot be expunged (including violent felonies) and there are also exacting "hoops" you must jump through to make it happen. That is why it is advisable to not go it alone. If you are interested in seeking an expungement of an Oklahoma arrest or conviction, seek the advice of a skilled expungement attorney like Drew Nichols at Nichols Law Firm. The firm has offices in Norman and Wewoka for your convenience. Call them toll-free at 405-217-4118 or contact them online today.

Keywords: criminal defense, expungement, criminal record, record sealing, criminal history, arrest history, arrest record, conviction