More people will be eligible to have their arrests and cases expunged starting November 1, 2019. The two categories of people affected are individuals who have two nonviolent felony convictions and individuals convicted of a nonviolent felony that has subsequently been reclassified as a misdemeanor.
Two Nonviolent Felony Convictions
You will be eligible for an expungement if:
- you were convicted of not more than two non-violent felonies,
- you have not been convicted of any offense that requires you to be a registered sex offender,
- no felony or misdemeanor charges are pending against the you, and
- at least ten years have passed since the completion of the sentence for the felony conviction.
Previously, it required a pardon by the governor to expunge up to two felonies. Note that the last requirement states that the wait must be since the “completion of the sentence for the felony conviction.” The law allows you to expunge two felonies, but the waiting period requirement refers only to a single felony. I would assume that they meant for the wait to be ten years since the last felony conviction. If it doesn’t, then it would result in weird outcomes. For example, you could have completed your sentence for a felony in county A three years ago and completed your sentence for felony in county B over ten years ago. Does this mean you can expunge the county B felony now because that’s the felony that you’re trying to expunge?
Also, I assume the intent of this change was to give people the ability to expunge two felonies. However, the use of the term “the felony conviction” indicates that only one felony can be expunged at a time. Currently, you can put as many cases that are eligible for expungement on a single petition if they occurred in the same county. Surely the intent of this law isn’t to make people do a separate petition for each felony if it’s in the same county.
Either way, this is not a huge change. There simply aren’t that many people who are eligible under this change, who know about this change, who have the means to pay for an expungement, and who even want to get this expunged. If the legislature is going to spend time updating the expungement laws, it should have also incorporated changes that applied to more people.
Note that this change won’t reinstate firearms rights. Someone who receives all felony cases expunged under this section will be considered a “hidden felon.” You can still be charged with possession of a firearm after felony conviction. Reinstatement of firearms rights requires a pardon by the governor.
Nonviolent Felony Reclassified as a Misdemeanor
You’ll be eligible for expungement if:
- you were convicted of a nonviolent felony that was subsequently reclassified as a misdemeanor under Oklahoma law,
- you are not currently serving a sentence for a crime in this state or another state,
- at least 30 days have passed since the completion or commutation of the sentence for the crime that was reclassified as a misdemeanor,
- any restitution ordered by the court to be paid has been satisfied in full, and
- any treatment program ordered by the court has been successfully completed (including failure of a treatment program that resulted in an accelerated or revoked sentence that has since been successfully completed by you or you can show successful completion of a treatment program at a later date.
The purpose of this change is to make SQ 780 retroactive. It does–kinda. Unfortunately, this change is far different than the change proposed in the initial bill to make 780 retroactive. This new category of expungement eligibility actually requires someone to get a felony conviction first. This is especially weird considering nothing was done to account for people on felony deferred sentences for crimes that have subsequently been reclassified as a misdemeanor. To get a felony deferred sentence expunged, you have to wait five years after the case is dismissed. So for someone in that situation on a deferred sentence, it may be quicker to get the deferred sentence accelerated to a conviction, wait 30 days, then file for expungement. That would be ridiculous.
This change also refers to “a nonviolent felony offense.” Does this also mean you can only get one and only one of these felony cases expunged? What if someone has two separate felony cases that are just simple drug possession? Can they only get one expunged? If so, what’s the point of this law? Because it won’t help many people. If someone has a felony simple drug possession conviction, the chances are extremely high that they have more than just one. The point should be to get all felonies subsequently reduced to a misdemeanor off as many records as possible–not just one per person.
It’s unknown how this change will affect firearm rights. It’s likely that someone whose case is expunged under this provision will be considered a “hidden felon,” thus will not be able to legally possess a firearm.
Sources: SB 815, HB 1269, and 22 O.S. § 18
Current as of October 13, 2019.