Oklahoma enacts automatic record clearing law
On May 2, 2022, Oklahoma Governor Stitt signed into law a comprehensive process making expungement automatic for all otherwise eligible misdemeanors and a range of non-conviction records. See HB 3316, enacting 22 Okla. Stat. Ann. § 18(C). Oklahoma thus becomes the tenth state to join the bipartisan trend toward broadening the availability of record clearing to people with convictions, without requiring them to file a petition and go to court for relief. In addition to these states, another 10 states now make expungement automatic for non-conviction records.
The Oklahoman reported that the “clean slate” bill passed the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support, with a combined five votes against, and it was promptly signed into law by Oklahoma’s Republican governor. The bill’s primary sponsor Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, said that “There was certainly a general consensus that, you know, this this isn’t anything that’s partisan related; what it’s about is it’s about humans. So this is really a measure to help people.”
Under Oklahoma law expunged records are sealed, but remain available to law enforcement and may be used in subsequent prosecutions. Any record that has been sealed may be ordered “obliterated or destroyed” after an additional 10 years. § 19(K). Oklahoma also authorizes its courts to expunge up to two non-violent felonies, andn also pardoned felonies, but these were not included in the new law (styled “clean slate”). The law is effective November 1, 2022, and the process for automatic expungement is to commence three years after that date.
The Oklahoma process for expunging records without a petition is spelled out in a new § 19(B): the Oklahoma Bureau of Criminal Investigation must provide a list of eligible cases to the prosecutor on a monthly basis for a 45-day review. The prosecutor mayh object only for specified reasons: the case does not meet the definition of a clean slate eligible case; the individual has not paid court-ordered restitution to the victim; or “the agency has a reasonable belief, grounded in supporting facts, that an individual with a clean slate eligible case is continuing to engage in criminal activity, whether charged or not charged, within or outside the state.” A list of cases as to which there has been no objection is then sent to the court for expungement. The court must expunge all cases on the list sent to it, and notify all agencies holding records directing them to expunge as well. The law does not provide for notifying individuals in case of prosecutor objection, or after their record has been expunged, al though the state supreme court and the BCI are authorized to make rules governing the process. The BCI is required to provide to the legislature a list of individuals whose records have been expunged on an annual basis.
Oklahoma is the latest state to enact so-called “clean slate” relief, extending record clearing to all eligible individuals without requjiring them to file a petition and go to court. There are now five states that authorize automatic record clearing for a range of misdemeanor convictions: Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, South Dakota and Virginia. Five additional states also authorize petition-less record clearing relief for a range of felonies (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, and New Jersey), though none of these schemes has yet come on line. Five more states authorize record clearing for certain marijuana convictions. Counting Oklahoma, there are now a total of 20 states that clear most non-conviction records without requiring their subject to file a petition, and another nine states that make non-conviction relief mandatory upon request. See the 50-state chart in record-clearing from the Restoration of Rights Project.
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