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What are Oklahoma Criminal Court Records?
Oklahoma criminal court records refer to various official documents pertaining to criminal cases and court proceedings heard within the state’s jurisdiction. They provide official accounts of the litigation process, including details of the offense being prosecuted as well as the offender and plaintiff, court motions and motion arguments, court actions and appearances as well as filed evidence, witness statements and the court’s final verdict regarding the matter. Interested members of the public may obtain or view these records upon request unless the record of interest is deemed confidential by the court. Where access to the record is restricted, the requesting party will be required to meet specific eligibility requirements prior to obtaining the record.
Understanding the Oklahoma Criminal Court System
The judiciary of Oklahoma comprises five types of courts with varying authorities. Within the state’s judicial system, the Oklahoma Supreme Court is tasked with managing the administrative functions of the state’s court system. This includes all state courts of limited or general jurisdiction, all special courts, intermediate appellate courts, independent courts and Oklahoma’s courts of last resort. Oklahoma’s court system comprises of:
- Oklahoma Supreme Court
- Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
According to the provisions of Oklahoma’s judicial laws, district courts have general jurisdiction over crimes that occur within their respective judicial districts. As such, criminal cases generally proceed from any one of Oklahoma’s 77 district courts with exception to some felonies and federal offenses. However, criminal cases may also begin from the Municipal Courts, which are under the administration of the Supreme Court but not part of the state judicial system. Municipal courts only have jurisdiction over selected city ordinances which are criminal. The decision of the state district or municipal courts may be appealed to a higher court. While Oklahoma’s Supreme Court is one of the state’s highest courts, and a court of last resort, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals hears appeals of criminal cases while the Supreme Court performs administrative functions and hears appeals of civil cases. Unlike most states, this leaves Oklahoma operating two courts of last resort. Nonetheless, it is within the authority of the state Supreme Court to determine which of the courts have jurisdiction over a case.
What’s Included in an Oklahoma Criminal Court Record?
Oklahoma criminal court records are generated to provide a formal account of criminal court proceedings in the state. Thus, most records are unique to the case as well as the jurisdiction in which the case was heard or the record custodian. Most records include details of the court hearings and judgments and noteworthy revisions made by appellate courts. This generally includes details of the offense being prosecuted as well as details of the plaintiff and defendant usually contained in court trial transcripts that also detail court actions and motions. The specificity of court records notwithstanding, criminal court records share some similarities. They usually include:
- Details of the case, including the date and place of the incident and its legal severity
- The personal and contact information of the defendant and complainant
- Where relevant, the criminal and/or conviction history of the accused
- Documents supporting or challenging the physical or psychological competence of the defendant, plaintiff or key witnesses.
- Any warrants issued in connection with the case including search or arrest warrants and related documents.
- Evidence presented by either plaintiff or defendant
- Information regarding the indictment, court summons and the plea of the offender.
- Details of the indictment, court summons, the defendant's plea as well as court actions, motions, motion arguments, court appearances and significant aspects of the trial
- Details of the court's final verdict including ascribed penalties including fines, jail terms or probationary demands.
- Revisions (to an initial judgment) made by an appellate court.
Obtaining Oklahoma Criminal Court Records
According to the provisions of the Oklahoma Open Records Act, interested members of the public may access criminal court records upon request. While the accessibility of a record varies across each judicial district, most confidential records can be accessed by members of the public, and confidential/sealed records are restricted to eligible persons. There are three main channels through which Oklahoma criminal court records can be retrieved:
- Using the states-operated or third party online resources
- Making in-person requests to the courthouse where the case was heard
- Sending mail-in queries to the appropriate record custodian
How to Find Oklahoma Criminal Court Records Online
The Oklahoma state judiciary maintains an online repository with which interested members of the public can access criminal court records. This is operated independently from the locally-managed online resources operated by some judicial districts. However, the records contained in this repository are pooled from participating courts across the state, allowing users to conduct statewide searches for court records. The resource available for the public is the OSCN Docket Search tool.
The Oklahoma State Courts Network unifies court record information from working dockets of Oklahoma Appellate and District Courts into one central database. As such, the availability of a court record depends primarily on the judicial district in which the record was filed/heard as well as the court's history of computerized/electronic case and document management. Generally, all public court records may be accessible using the OSCN docket tool. Where this is not the case, requestors may opt to contact the court clerk of the custodian court.
Docket searches on the OSCN can be performed using the names of either of the parties involved, the county or judicial district in which the case was heard, the case number of the record.
Name-Based Docket Searches
Name-based searches on the OSCN docket tool requires the full name of either of the parties involved, but more importantly, the defendant. In addition, the date of birth field can also be used to narrow down the search results. However, where the date of birth is not included in the record of interest, the case will not be listed regardless of whether or not the first and last name is exact. Similarly, business-related court records can be obtained by searching with the name of the business which requires imputing the business name in the last name field.
If a name or business name is not known, users may opt to use the two wild card characters available -- i.e. the percentage sign (%) and underscore (_). While the % can be used to find all letter combinations following an entry, underscores may be used to replace multiple characters. These wild card characters are most useful if the partial information can be provided by the user.
Lookup by Case Number
To search for a record using its case number, users of the OSCN Docket Tool must furnish the Case Number textbook with the case number of the record in the format CM-2002-1234. Along with the case number, the user must also provide the county in which the case was filed/heard. Court case records may also be searched by lower court case number (Appellate only) in which case the user will be required to provide the filing year along with the court which issued the appealed judgment.
In addition to the above, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels
How do I Access Oklahoma Criminal Court Records in Person?
The Oklahoma state judiciary restricts the dissemination of confidential/sealed court case information to selected persons. As such, some court records, including criminal court case records are not accessible electronically, but to persons who make in-person queries to the office of the clerk of courts in the courthouse where the case was filed/heard. Given these restrictions, in-person record requests are recommended to requestors who are interested in accessing full court case information including confidential records. All Oklahoma in-person record requests may proceed thus:
Locate the Record Custodian
Under Oklahoma’s judicial system, criminal court records are primarily generated and disseminated by the court clerk of the state district courts and the court of criminal appeals. Given that the state judiciary oversees 77 district courts, in-person court record requests require that the requester locate the record by confirming the judicial district/courthouse in which the offense was reported.
The location of a criminal court record may be impacted by factors other than the judicial district where the crime occured. Since district courts do not have jurisdiction over selected felonies and federal offenses, these cases are usually heard by higher courts within or outside Oklahoma. Similarly, cases in which an appeal has been granted often have updated record information which is usually housed by the appellate court. This may be the Oklahoma court of criminal appeals or the state Supreme Court -- the location of these records may also be impacted by the severity of the offense.
Interested persons may obtain information regarding court locations and their corresponding clerks using the Oklahoma Court System Map featured on the state's OSCN website.
Collect the Required Information
Upon confirming the location of a courthouse or the judicial district in which the case was heard, requestors are advised to contact the court clerk for information regarding the record retrieval process of the court. Typically, persons seeking access to criminal court records are required to provide any information required to facilitate record searches. However, these requirements may vary depending on the case, judicial district or the record custodian. However, the information typically required usually includes the full name of the parties involved, the approximate date on which the case was filed/heard, the case number (if known), and the names of the legal representatives of either or both plaintiff and defendant.
Visit the Court Record Custodian
While in-person requests are generally made to the office of the court clerk of the appropriate court during official working hours, requestors may be required to schedule their visit to the courthouse beforehand. Where no authenticated, certified or confidential records are required, the requesting party will be allowed to self-serve using public access terminals available in most courthouses. However, most custodians require that each requestor complete a request form indicating the desired record along with other relevant information.
Provide Identification and Fee Requirements
In addition to the information needed to facilitate the record search, requestors may be required to present a government-issued photo ID. This is useful for confirming the eligibility of the requestor to access the record. Where the record is confidential, IDs must be accompanied by a court-issued subpoena. Requestors will be informed about alternative forms of ID if a government-issued photo ID cannot be provided. Additionally, requestors may be charged a standard fee to cover the cost of the record search and any copies requested.
How do I Access Oklahoma Criminal Court Records via Mail?
The Oklahoma state judicial system allows the dissemination of selected court records via U.S. mail. As such, interested members of the public may obtain criminal court records by sending a written request to the applicable court clerk. While the availability of a record depends on its custodian, the case type and the confidentiality of the information contained therein, most judicial districts have similar requirements for obtaining a record. Generally, all written requests must indicate:
- The personal information of the requestor (including their contact information)
- General case information
- The full names of the parties involved
- The date on which the case was filed/heard
- The case file number, docket number and or appellate case number of the record (if applicable)
- The names of either or both legal representatives of the plaintiff and defendant
- General information regarding appellate reviews to the original verdict (if applicable)
In addition to the above, some record custodians also require that the requestor enclose a photocopy of their government-issued photo ID and a cheque/money order to cover any applicable fees and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. For information regarding court locations and contact details, intending requesters may use the Oklahoma Court System Map.
Are all Oklahoma Criminal Court Records Public?
As provided by the federally instituted Freedom of Information Act, members of the public have the right to request access to records or information managed by federal agencies. As such, most U.S states protect the right of public access to court records with only a few exemptions.
Most court records contained in electronically accessible repositories are typically considered public information. They include details such as the severity of the offense being prosecuted as well as details of court actions, and motions, court orders and appearances, motion arguments, dispositions as well as the court's final verdict including penalties. Additionally, court schedules, calendars and minutes and opinions are publicly available.
What Records are Automatically Sealed by Oklahoma State Statutes?
Court case information may be expunged, sealed or restricted following a petition from the subject(s) of the record. However, records may also be deemed confidential, primarily due to the information contained therein. While the availability of court records generally depends on the judicial district in which is responsible for the record, the following information is generally restricted and may only be released under special circumstances:
- The personal and contact information of selected persons -- including minors and juveniles
- When ordered by a court, the identity of an assault or domestic violence victim may also be protected
- Identities of the juror and in some cases, witnesses/witness statements
- Records pertaining to child support and custody, paternity and adoption, etc.
- Reports which are filed by expert witnesses including psychological evaluations
- Records pertaining to vulnerable adults or aged dependents.
- Financial information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers and related details.
Can I Access Oklahoma Sealed Criminal Court Records?
Given their confidentiality, sealed records are generally not accessible via the state’s online databases but can be obtained by making in-person queries to the office of the clerk of the applicable court. When deemed relevant for legal, security or financial purposes, court records which have been restricted or sealed may be released to selected persons. This typically requires the recipient of the record to obtain a legal authority (court order) from an Oklahoma-licensed judge. In some cases, requestors may also require written permission from the subject of the record to access the sealed record.
Are Oklahoma Juvenile Criminal Records Open to the Public?
Across most U.S. states, juvenile criminal records are automatically sealed by state statutes. However, there are exceptions. These exceptions include:
- Instances in which the juvenile is 14 or older and has a prior delinquent adjudication (which may be followed by the subsequent delinquent charge)
- If the juvenile was not tried or charged as a minor but rather an adult or youthful offender
- If the offense is a traffic-related violation or disregard of the Access to Tobacco Act
- If the offense is considered a state or federal felony
Where the record is confidential, it may only be released to selected persons under special circumstances. Access to a confidential/sealed record typically requires a court order, but where the juvenile record is required by a school district, the district attorney or the legal representative of the juvenile then limited information may be released without a court order. To obtain a court order authorizing access to a juvenile record, the requesting party must provide sufficient justification for the release of the requested document. Oklahoma-licensed judges will issue a subpoena if it is verified that the release of the information contained in the record will be more beneficial than detrimental.
How to Find Oklahoma Criminal History Records
While criminal court records provide official accounts of the judicial processes of criminal courts, criminal records feature information regarding the criminal history of individuals within the state jurisdiction. As such, court records may not be substituted for criminal history information.
In the state of Oklahoma, the Bureau of Investigation maintains a statewide repository for criminal history information, from which criminal records can be retrieved as indicated in Title 51 § 24.A.5.2 of the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Criminal history information can be retrieved using Oklahoma’s CHIRP (Criminal History Information Request Portal) or by making in person or mail requests to the SBI. Criminal record searches on CHIRP can be processed by furnishing the search tool with the required criteria which is primarily the name of the subject, their name, gender and/or social security number. Users are charged $15 for each OSBI database search and an additional $1 as the standard online convenience transaction fee.
On the other hand, in-person or mail requests can be made by downloading and completing the state’s Criminal History Request Form. This application must be legibly filled, and submitted alongside the indicated fees to:
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation
6600 N. Harvey
Oklahoma City, OK 73116