Sonja R. Porter Attorney At Law

Expungement Process

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO EXPUNGE A RECORD?

For 991c Expungements (Those who successfully completed a deferred setence)

When a person finishes their deferred sentence, the first thing that must happen is the case must be dismissed and then an order to seal the courthouse records is issued.

expungementIn many courthouses, this does not require the defendant to reappear.  Usually the DA’s office will eventually pull cases and, if they find everything is done, will process a dismissal and an order to seal the courthouse records.  “Everything done” includes all costs and fines and probation fees paid in full.  Even if the person is paying according to the payment plan, by law, the case cannot be dismissed unless everything is paid.

In some counties, such as Oklahoma County, the defendant or his attorney must call the DA’s office to be sure that their case is reviewed due to the volume of cases.  In other counties, such as Payne County, a person must return when the deferred is over.  At court, the judge will announce the case is dismissed and will order the record to be sealed.

COUR COST & GOVERNMENT FEES: None.

ATTORNEY FEES:  This varies from a few hundred to several hundred.  Some attorneys include this with the fee of the handling the charges and the plea, if the legal fee was paid in full.  Others require an additional fee.  Of course, if you go to a different attorney, that attorney will charge a fee.  Each prices this differently.  I don’t post mine online as it really depends on the matter and the court and other factors.  It only takes a phone call to find out!

IMPORTANT: Your OSBI record might not be updated and not reflecting the case is dismissed.  The judge’s order to seal the courthouse files will not affect or update the OSBI records unless and until OSBI receives a certified copy of that court order or court minute.  This does not happen “automatically” and it is up to the defendant (or his attorney) to make sure this is done.  Unless you have had an experienced expungement attorney handle this, most likely your OSBI record has not been updated and the matter may even appear to be still pending, which can complicate background checks.

If you are not sure if your OSBI record has been updated, you should obtain your OSBI record top avoid any surprises. (how to pull OSBI record)  If you find that your OSBI record has not been updated, you can contact your previous attorney, or call my office and we can discuss how I can help you.

CAN THIS BE DONE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY? Can you? Yes.  Should you? It depends.  If you feel comfortable and have the time to make the phone call to the DA’s office and following through, it is possible.  To update OSBI, you would just need to present your photo ID to the court clerk to obtain a certified copy of the dismissal record to send to OSBI.  However, an experienced attorney knows who to call and how to follow up.  Either way, it takes time and does not happen overnight – and sometimes can take weeks.

 

For FULL Expungements (Section 18)

A full expungement is much more extensive, and thus, more expensive.  In many counties, a civil petition must be filed in the district court, even if the charges were only in municipal court.  This requires a filing fee.  The Petition is something that must be created.  The court clerks do not have forms for these.  Once filed, the matter is assigned to a judge.  The judge’s clerk will set a hearing date at least 30 days out because the law allows the other parties 30 days to file an objection.

Notice Sent:  Copies of the petition and notice of the hearing has to be sent to all of the parties (every agency where records are to be expunged), which includes OSBI, the DA of the county, the police department, the court clerk, and/or the other party in the VPO case.

Expungement Hearing:

If none of the parties object and have signed off on a Order, then a hearing is usually not necessary.  Most judges will sign an agreed order and not require everyone to come.

– If any party objects, they will object in writing and send a copy of their objection to the other parties.  If the objection cannot be resolved prior to a hearing, then the parties will have to appear for a hearing.  The burden is first on the petitioner to show that what he seeks to expunge qualifies for an expungement by fitting into one of the listed categories of Section 18.  If there is an objection, it is usually about whether the matter fits within the prescribed categories.

If the record does fit a category (or a judge finds that it fits), then by law, the petitioner’s record will be expunged unless the objecting agency can convince the court otherwise.  These objections are not made very often.

Court Decision & Appeal:  Once the court issues an order, for or against, the party that is not satisfied with the decision can appeal it to the appellate courts.  This can take time – months – to get a final decision.  The appellate court can reverse the lower court’s decision or affirm it.

COUR COST & GOVERNMENT FEES: Filing fees currently are just under $150 (per Petition).  OSBI requires $150 to clear the record (per order).  In addition, some municipalities also charge $150 to expunge their records.  Postage fees (certified mail required to send Petitions) are approximately $30.

If there is a hearing, a court reporter’s fee must be posted.  If a case is appealed, the party appealing must pay the filing fee and cost of having the record prepared (minimum $200).

ATTORNEY FEES: Again these vary, but from those I know of, they start at $1,000 and go up.  Mine will vary, too, based on each case and the county involved.  Most attorneys charge a flat fee which typically is required before the petition is filed.

NO GUARANTEE:  Attorneys are not permitted to make any guarantees as to the outcome and the fee paid cannot be based on outcome.  So the fee you pay them is for the work they do and the time they spend and not for the result.

CAN THIS BE DONE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?  It can be, but shouldn’t be. There is no form for the petition, there is no published list of who needs to be served, and a non-lawyer trying to call a government lawyer might not even get past the receptionist.  And if you do talk to the lawyer, then an Order has to be prepared that makes all the government lawyers and the judge happy.  Plus you will most likely have to go to court and face the governments lawyers.  A lawyer who has experience with expungements has developed working relationships with the government lawyers as well as a reputation in the field which allows them to get your expungement through relatively smoothly, allowing you to not give it much thought or time.