If you are charged with a crime in Oklahoma, a deferred sentence may allow you to serve probation instead of jail time. For many people charged with a first offense, this alternative sentencing solution is the best possible outcome to a serious mistake that could have had significant legal consequences.
A deferred sentence also allows the defendant to have his or her court record sealed after successfully completing the court-ordered probation. This can be a tremendous relief to anyone concerned about the lasting impact of a criminal record.
While deferred sentence expungement does not completely erase one’s arrest record or OSBI file, it does remove the person’s name from publicly available court records, and the disposition of the case reflects a dismissal of the charges rather than a criminal conviction.
A deferred sentence and the process for sealing court records pertaining to a deferred sentence are explained in 22 O.S. § 991c.
In such a case, a defendant would plead guilty to the criminal charge. However, instead of accepting the plea and rendering judgment, the judge delays judgment and sentencing, giving the defendant an opportunity to complete probation instead.
For example, a first DUI offender may plead guilty to DUI, but instead of convicting the defendant and ordering him or her to jail, the judge would defer sentencing and order the defendant to drug and alcohol treatment, community service, use of ignition interlock, participating in a victim’s impact panel, and similar terms of probation.
If the defendant violates probation or commits other crimes, the prosecutor will likely file a Motion to Accelerate sentencing. The judge may then accept the guilty plea and order the defendant to serve his or her jail or prison sentence.
If the defendant successfully completes his or her probation, the court records are updated. The defendant’s guilty plea is changed to reflect a plea of “not guilty,” and the case is dismissed. There is no criminal conviction, and through a Section 991c expungement, the defendant’s name is stricken from court records.
A deferred sentence is different from a suspended sentence. While both types of sentencing allow a person to serve probation in lieu of all or part of the jail or prison sentence, a suspended sentence results in criminal conviction.
Individuals given a suspended sentence are not eligible for expungement under § 991c. However, once certain requirements are met, they may be eligible for record expungement under 22 O.S. § 18.
It is important to note that a deferred sentence expungement and a full expungement under 22 O.S. § 18 are not mutually exclusive. Often, the § 991c expungement can provide some relief pending eligibility for a full record expungement.
Section 18 expungements seal not only the court records, but also the criminal record on file with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). This section of the state’s criminal procedures law identifies 12 specific criteria which make a person eligible for expungement. Two of these criteria pertain to deferred sentences:
8. The person was charged with a misdemeanor, the charge was dismissed following the successful completion of a deferred judgment or delayed sentence, the person has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, no misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against the person, and at least one (1) year has passed since the charge was dismissed;
9. The person was charged with a nonviolent felony offense, as set forth in Section 571 of Title 57 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the charge was dismissed following the successful completion of a deferred judgment or delayed sentence, the person has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, no misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against the person, and at least ten (10) years have passed since the charge was dismissed.
In other words, a misdemeanor dismissed by a deferred sentence may be expunged after one year if the person has no felony convictions and no subsequent or pending criminal charges. A nonviolent felony dismissed by a deferred sentence may be expunged after 10 years if the person has no other misdemeanor or felony convictions and no subsequent or pending criminal charges.
If you were given a deferred sentence, and you want to make sure your name is cleared following successful completion of your probation, talk to your attorney to find out if you will be required to appear in court for the expungement. If you have questions about filing a petition for expungement, or about expungement eligibility under § 991c or § 18, call Coventon Criminal Defense for more information.