Full vs. Partial Expungement: What’s the Difference?
Earning an expungement can open more doors in your life, but the process and results can be confusing. Do you need an expungement? What is the difference between partial and full? How do you qualify for an expungement? We’ll explain all this and more to help you determine the right next steps for your case.
A partial expungement, also known as a 991 expungement, removes your case from the Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN). This can only occur if you plead to a deferred sentence and successfully complete all requirements. You can then have your case dismissed and expunged on your deferred review date.
The term “expunged” in this context is a bit of a misnomer. While your case is removed from the OSCN, the arrest record still exists. It is not truly and fully expunged unless you later apply for a full expungement.
This means your case cannot be found by the general public on OSCN, but can be found when someone—such as an employer—does a basic background search. The background report will show your arrest date, the arresting agency, and the county which prosecuted the case. It will also show that your case was dismissed.
If the person conducting the search is unfamiliar with the criminal legal system, they may think the case was fully dismissed; those more familiar with the system may deduce that you pled to a deferred sentence. How this impacts your career depends entirely on your employer—some will take issue with a dismissed charge, while others won’t.
It’s a common saying that you never need an expungement, until suddenly, you do. And when you really need it, the process unfortunately can’t be rushed. Expungements take time, so it’s better to start the process as early as possible, even if you think you may not need it.
A full expungement, also known as a Section 18 expungement, removes your case and your arrest record. This gives you the legal right to say the case never happened; removes the listing from OSCN and the docket sheet; and removes the arrest and case history from background searches.
Unlike with a partial expungement, you do not have to plea to a certain type of sentence to qualify for a section 18 expungement. The type of sentence affects when you qualify, but not whether you qualify.
The below chart represents when you qualify for a full expungement. It does not take into consideration additional cases. The timing listed begins once you finish your probation. Probation is considered finished after all requirements are completed and the length of your probation has concluded.
This chart is based on common case combinations that qualify for an expungement. If you have a different type of case combination, please consult an attorney for an assessment of your case.
Timing isn’t the only requirement you must meet to receive an expungement. You must also:
- Have no violent felony convictions
- Pay all court fines on all of your cases
- Have no pending matters against you
If you have cases outside Oklahoma that would prevent you from receiving an expungement, they will be considered and used to deny your expungement here. For example, even if you have never been convicted of a violent felony in Oklahoma, your expungement will be denied if you have been convicted of a violent felony in another state, tribal court, or federal court.
Many people also mistakenly think that they only need to pay off the court fines on the case they want expunged. In fact, you must pay all your outstanding court fines before you are able to apply for an expungement. This not only includes basic criminal matters, but also any outstanding traffic tickets.
Another cause for a denied expungement is having a pending matter against you. If you have any pending cases, you cannot get older cases expunged.
Can I get a full expungement after I have received a partial expungement?
Yes! Once you receive a partial expungement with a successful deferred sentence, you can still apply for a full expungement. You will have to wait the set amount of time, but your prior partial expungement does not preclude you from receiving a full expungement.
How does the expungement process work?
If you are applying for a full expungement, you will start by hiring an attorney to determine your eligibility. Once an attorney has determined you are eligible, they will prepare and file all necessary court documents. Once those documents are filed, your attorney sends notice to all appropriate parties, and gives them a chance to object.
Eventually, a court hearing will be set and any objections will be argued, or your attorney will present the expungement petition to the court with all parties agreeing. The court will either deny or grant your expungement, and all granted expungements must be sent to the appropriate parties. This is when the court actually expunges your case. This entire process takes approximately 60 days, depending on the court's availability.
The Bottom Line
Even if you have received a partial expungement, you can and should receive a full expungement. It will not only remove your case listing from OSCN, but a full expungement will give you the legal right to say the case never happened and remove your arrest record. This will prevent people from doing background searches on you and finding your arrest.