Who Can See Expunged Records?

Who Can See Expunged Records?

Expungement is a process that hides your criminal record from public view: It removes your record from OSCN (Oklahoma State Courts Network), the state’s court database. This hides them from the general public, but there are still some people who can see them. Who can see expunged records in Oklahoma? And what can they see? Let’s learn more about both of these common questions.

What Can You Expunge?

With a full expungement, your court records will be removed from OSCN and the arresting agency will also seal your arrest records. That means you can expunge:

  • Arrests
  • Acquittals (you were found not guilty)
  • Charges that were dismissed
  • Convictions for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies
  • Crimes for which you’ve been pardoned
  • Victim protective orders (VPOs) in certain cases

It isn’t just about who can see expunged records, but who can ask you about them: Once your case is expunged, you can legally say the crime never happened.

Are There Any Records You Can’t Expunge?

Removing your brushes with the law from the public record can benefit you when it comes to job applications, finding housing, and more. But there are some court records you can’t expunge:

  • Convictions for violent felonies
  • Serious sex offenses
  • Civil proceedings, like bankruptcy and evictions
  • Civil court cases, like personal injury
  • Small claims court cases

This is important if you have something like an eviction or bankruptcy filing on your record. While you can expunge your criminal cases, these types of civil cases can still affect your life, especially your ability to find housing.

Who Can See Expunged Records in Oklahoma?

You can’t expunge civil cases, so the general public will always be able to see those. However, expunging criminal cases hides them from most people. Here are the exceptions in Oklahoma.

Law Enforcement

In Oklahoma, “expungement” really means “sealed.” When a record is sealed, it’s hidden from public view, but it isn’t destroyed. Law enforcement agencies that go digging will still be able to find your criminal history. This includes the:

  • Prosecuting agency
  • Arresting agency
  • Attorney General
  • Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI)

According to the law, after the court issues the order of expungement, these agencies can still “inspect” the records: “Inspection of the records included in the order may thereafter be permitted by the court only upon petition by … the Attorney General, or by the prosecuting agency and only to those persons and for such purposes named in such petition.”

Why does this matter? It means law enforcement can use expunged records to enhance your punishment. They won’t always do this – it varies by district and is left up to the prosecutor to decide – but it is a possibility.

Federal Agencies

The law also states that “other interested persons and agencies” can see expunged records. This means that federal agencies will have access, including the:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

While expunging your record removes it from OSCN, it might not remove it from the federal databases. So, even if federal agencies don’t check OSCN specifically, you can still pop up if you’re undergoing a federal process, like:

  • Federal security clearance
  • TSA PreCheck clearance
  • Immigration proceedings

It’s usually best to be up-front about your past with these agencies. An experienced expungement attorney can help you navigate these situations.

Certain Employers

This is where who can see expunged records gets tricky. Most employers can’t see them. That’s because they conduct name-based background checks, typically using a private company. But some employers conduct fingerprint background checks, which are run through the federal database. This usually only includes federal employers and those that work with vulnerable people, like the elderly, disabled, and children. Your job application will tell you what’s required in terms of a background check.

The Bottom Line

Only law enforcement, federal agencies, and employers that run fingerprint background checks can see expunged records. With a full expungement, landlords, coworkers, potential partners, nosy relatives, and most employers won’t be able to see expunged arrest records or court records. And regardless of who can see expunged records, the process is worth it. If you’re ready to get a fresh start, contact the Tulsa Expungement Guy today.