For those who have faced criminal charges, served their sentence, or paid their fines, and are now attempting to pick up with their lives, it can be challenging to get out from under the negative impact of having that information publicly available. The good news is that there are some conditions in which the record can be sealed. It’s imperative to know what those conditions are to determine eligibility and understand what it means to have criminal records sealed.
If you have a criminal record, you may want to explore the available Criminal lawyers in Okmulgee for support, guidance, and assistance. Before you do, you need to address the following issues: what does it mean to have your criminal records sealed, what are the benefits, and do you qualify?
What Does It Mean To Have Your Criminal Records Sealed?
There are two terms, sealed records, and expungement, that typically get thrown around in the same context but have different meanings. It’s crucial to understand the difference between these efforts to ensure you seek the correct, most-appropriate option with the greatest benefits. Let’s take a look at the differences between these two responses.
Sealing Criminal Records
Generally speaking, if you have been arrested or convicted, that information is available in the public records. At that point, anyone with interest can access that information to seek out the details pertaining to your experience. Anytime someone is doing a public records search on you, this arrest or conviction will show up in their search results. Even if you are not legally disqualified for a service or public opportunity based on those findings, it is an unfortunate possibility that there could still be a soft bias or unfavorable opinion of you based on the information discovered. Sealing the criminal records means that, if someone were to seek that information about your history, they would need a court order to access those details.
Expungement of records is different in that those records are entirely wiped away as if they never happened. This may be the best option for someone with a felony or misdemeanor for which the charges were later dropped, you were ultimately found not guilty, or for times when the events happened some years prior without charges ever actually being filed.
Having a criminal record is like having a website with unfavorable information about you. Whenever someone has an interest in whether to hire you, rent to you, or accept you as a candidate for an opportunity, they can search your name. Your record would pop up easily with all the details of those legal involvements. Having the criminal records sealed is like adding a password to that website. The information is still there. The person searching can see that the website is there and see that there have been legal issues with law enforcement but would need a password to open the page for the details. An expunged record would essentially be like a return of “no results found” when the seeker attempted to find the site with your negative information. It’s as if the website was removed and is no longer in existence.
What Are The Benefits?
Many scenarios might present an opportunity for someone to uncover your legal history. Suppose you are applying for a loan, trying to rent an apartment, applying for a job, applying for higher education, or volunteering in a community where you may be interacting with others on behalf of an organization. In those cases, you can expect to be asked to submit to a background check. This can be an awkward situation to know that your legal history could impact your future opportunities or at least color your experience.
Having your records sealed can ensure your information remains private until the agent provides a legitimate reason and petitions the courts to provide that information. It may be enough for the agent to know the category of the charge and may not need to seek out the details. This may provide you with the opportunity to frame the events from your perspective, or perhaps the agent will not feel inclined to pursue the issue further.
Unfortunately for those with a criminal record, there are some types of situations in which many states will allow someone to be discriminated against based on criminal history. Many prospective employers use the right to deny employment based on the candidate’s criminal past. That criminal history could be as insignificant as a speeding ticket. Prospective landlords may use criminal records as a method for determining whether to accept an applicant. Even a college may boost their success rates and graduating statistics by denying admissions to prospective students with a criminal history.
You can see that some life-altering opportunities could be negatively impacted by a background search that produces a criminal record finding. It may be very advantageous to consider if those records can be sealed or expunged to level the playing field or open up opportunities. The worst can happen is that you are denied, leaving you in the same situation as you were in when you began the process. The best that can happen is that your request is granted and you are afforded that extra layer of opportunity or deniability.
How Do You Pursue Sealing The Records?
1. Search Out the Records
The first step in the process is to determine specifically what information is available in your criminal record. You may be surprised to find something that you expected to be there never actually made it into the file, or perhaps there are only some records that you want to take on the process of sealing. It’s vital to know exactly which records you wish to pursue in the process of sealing the records. You can do this by requesting a criminal history report, which is available from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, otherwise known as OSBI. For a small fee, OSBI can provide a complete report on all information that would be available upon request in the public records.
There are some records that would not be reported there that would still be of interest to request to be sealed. Victim Protective Orders are one such case that would not be initially obvious as being on the record based on the report from OSBI alone. Another gap in the OSBI is if you were arrested in a city but were not reported by the local police department. So, if either of those conditions is anticipated, you will need to pursue those sources individually.
2. Consider The Eligibility Requirements For Each Record
Each category of a criminal record has its threshold of qualifying which records can be sealed or expunged based on a preset standard of criteria. The records should be weighed according to the type of case. Misdemeanors, arrests, and felonies should separate out the types of cases.
· Misdemeanors. Among the misdemeanors, there are various possible outcomes where some of them could have been dismissed, found to be not guilty, or pleaded to no contest. If the misdemeanor outcome was guilty, there are still a couple of conditions that could still constitute the sealed records. Don’t assume that a guilty outcome is necessarily a disqualifier.
· Arrests. There are a variety of scenarios in which an arrest may not have resulted in any additional charges. In this case, the arrests are often eligible to be sealed or even expunged from your personal record.
· Felonies. Unfortunately, criminal records containing violent felonies are ineligible for sealing. If there is an extenuating circumstance that you believe creates an exception? In that case, you should seek legal help to see if you can offer a reasonable exception to why this particular felony record presents an undue disadvantage to you personally over the cost of public awareness and interest.
3. Present Your Petition
The process of making the request to the court is not an easy one, but qualifying the cases in advance and having an argument ready to present to the court or any other party who may object creates a compelling request. The request itself must be supported by the team of legal representatives, such as the district attorney and any prosecutors or law enforcement officials involved in the case.
Assuming that the parties involved in the case raise no questions or objections, the case will then be decided by the court. If the request is granted, the court will provide certified copies of the sealing or expungement to be delivered to each agency involved who may have those records within their files. The directions will entail how the agency is expected to handle those records.
Hope For The Best
No one wants to spend the rest of their life living under the shadow of their past mistakes. And, no one wants to experience the everlasting consequence of future losses or issues once the criminal outcome has already been dealt with. The sealing of criminal records can be a welcome strategy for recovering from mistakes of the past.
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