If you have ever wanted to learn about how criminal records are sealed in Oklahoma, this series of blog articles will answer your questions.
In Part 1, we explained the expungement process in Oklahoma, which is the court’s legal process to seal an eligible criminal record from public access. As we explained in that article, an expungement does not destroy the record, but does seal it from public access. Further, you can legally deny that the record exists when answering questions to the public, as well as most government agencies.
But why would you want to do that? Many reasons.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of expunging your Oklahoma record. As we’ve discussed previously on this blog, Employers, landlords, and colleges regularly pull background searches on their applicants. Let’s dig more into that.
Oklahoma Employers may legally discriminate against persons with Criminal Records
Yes, you read that correctly. Job discrimination in Oklahoma is 100% legal. What’s more is that the vast majority of employers in this state practice this type of discrimination. What type of discrimination am I referring to?
Discrimination against persons with criminal records. It is completely legal and acceptable to refuse a job to a person who has any type of criminal record, whether a speeding ticket, or serious felony, or any type of misdemeanor, including marijuana possession, DUI, petit larceny, etc.
Anti-discrimination laws do not apply to criminal convictions, arrests, or investigations. Obviously, an employer cannot discriminate against a person soley because of their membership in a federal “protected class”, such as their race, sex, religion, age, disability, or national origin. But an employer can discriminate against a black muslim if that person had a criminal record and the employer’s stated reason for the refusal to hire was for the criminal record.
And it’s not just employers. Apartment complexes and residential landlords do this all of the time. In fact, this is a primary part of their screening process.
You see, the name of the game in real estate is getting long term, low maintenance tenants. It’s all about picking the right tenants. Except, Landlords don’t know how to tell a good tenant from a bad tenant. So they try to funnel as many applicants into the pool as possible. Then they start comparing the applicants based on things like eviction history, income, and yes, criminal records. By using all of this criteria, they can start to eliminate people off the list. The few remaining are the ones who get to rent the apartment.
Who else practices this type of discrimination? Colleges! Yes, the liberal arts ivory towers across the state utilize the same strategy as the for-profit real estate investors and property managers.
Universities, like large apartment complexes, receive a lot of applications from students. They first eliminate the applications with poor academics. The students with D averages, they don’t make the pick. So they knock off those first. But then as they whittle down to the applications with good Grade Point Averages, there are still a lot of applications. That’s because so many students apply for college today, more so than ever in our history.
So with all these applications from students with good grades, how the colleges continue to filter out students? They start looking at things like has the student ever been arrested for smoking pot or larceny of merchandise. There are actually a high number of student applicants with petty criminal records. So by eliminating the applicants who have any sort of arrest or criminal case, the college can narrow down the students who will be accepted.
Employers, Landlords, and Colleges cannot discriminate against your criminal past if your record is expunged
If you didn’t know that this type of discrimination went on every day in Oklahoma, well now you know. Even nursing homes discriminate against patient-resident applicants. Yes, people in their 80s who are sick and may have committed a crime 50 years ago – they have trouble finding a place to rent just like the millennial counterparts.
Fortunately, for the savvy ones out there that know how to play the system, you can use this to your advantage to increase your chances against the competition. The smart and savvy know that by hiring a lawyer and getting an expungement, you can control what people can access on your background record, and therefore take control of your career, education, and housing.
By getting an expungement, your criminal records are officially sealed from public access. That means employers, landlords, and universities will not be able to access those records, even if they try using the Open Records Act. Further, you can legally deny that the records ever existed and you can deny you were ever arrested or that the case ever happened.
And it is illegal for an employer, landlord, or university to make you disclose or divulge the existence of an expunged record.
But you must meet certain eligibility requirements. In our next article, we will discuss the eligibility requirements for getting your Oklahoma criminal record sealed.