Have you ever heard someone use the phrase “background check” in Oklahoma? In Oklahoma City, this term gets thrown around all the time, in a variety of different contexts, such as hiring an employee, interviewing a babysitter or daycare worker, or screening a tenant.
While that phrase may mean different things to different people, this series of articles will cover the following topics:
- What is a background check?
- Who can access my background information?
- What can I do to keep my background private?
- How a Lawyer can help you seal access to your background record
What is a background check in Oklahoma?
The phrase “background check” is used in popular language, but there is no official “background check” record keeping office in Oklahoma that covers everything about you, such as your credit report, residence history, or employment history.
While this information may be catalogued in various different sources (such as credit reporting agencies that keep track of your credit; public land records which keep track of ownership of real estate, etc), there is no one single database that records all of this information. But that’s not what people really mean anyway when they refer to a background check.
Instead, when most people in Oklahoma use the phrase “background check,” they are referring to the ability to publicly access any information relating to a person’s criminal history. And for this information, there is a single database that stores this information, as well as many other agencies/departments/offices in Oklahoma that have bits and pieces of it as well.
OSBI Criminal History Report – The “Background Check” in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) is a state agency that keeps track of all arrests in the state. When you are arrested in Oklahoma, the police department that made the arrest will usually fax your information to OSBI. Thereafter, OSBI will know that you were arrested, on what date, and for what crime. This is called an OSBI Criminal History Record Information Report in Oklahoma.
OSBI will then track your case as it moves through the courts, by updating your Criminal History Report to reflect what happened after your arrest, such as whether you were charged with the same or different crime, and whether you were convicted and sentenced or if your case was dismissed.
An OSBI Criminal History Record Information Report can be obtained for $15. The report will contain an OSBI # for the person identified, and then will list all names (first, last, maiden, married or former names) used by the person, as well as information about the person’s physical characteristics (height and weight, tattoos/scars) and the person’s birthdate and the alst four digits of their social security number.
Then the Criminal History Report will list in reverse order by date each arrest event and the disposition. For example:
Entry 1 – Arrested/Received Date: 2014-10-17
Agency: Sheriff’s Office, Okla County, Okla
Names used: Smith, John D.
Charge: Driving Under the Influence
Arrest Disposition: Referred to D.A.
Court: Oklahoma County, Case No. CM-2017-99999
Disposition: Guilty Plea
Amended to Misdemeanor Reckless Driving
Sentence: $500 fine
Notice that this report contains what the police arrested the person for (DUI) and what ended up happening in Court (the person pleaded guilty and the charged was reduced to Reckless Driving).
This is an important note, because a person may be confident in knowing they only have a traffic violation on their record, when in reality, they have an allegation for Driving while Under the Influence of Alcohol, even though in Court that charge was thrown out.
The OSBI Criminal History Record Information report is the most comprehensive compilation of a person’s criminal activity that is available in Oklahoma. But there are other sources of information that are publicly available as well.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court Network is a free, online database of court dockets that will include information about a person’s arrests, probation, and criminal history.
In Oklahoma, court dockets are publicly available online at www.OSCN.net. Using this website, you can search the dockets, county by county, using a person’s first and last name. On this website you can see misdemeanor and felony court cases in different counties. You can then click on an entry and read the court’s docket. By reading through the docket, you can determine what crime the person was charged with, and what eventually happened, such as the person was found guilty and sentenced to five years probation.
Anyone with a computer and internet access can get on OSCN and browse for hours, reading through court documents.
In the next few articles, we will look at what types of individuals and organizations routinely review this “background” information, and how a person can take steps to seal this information from public access using a lawyer.