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What is the difference between a dismissal and an expungement?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2024 | CRIMINAL LAW - Criminal Defense

In legal matters, the differences between a dismissal and an expungement are important to understand.

They may seem similar, but they have distinct implications and outcomes.


A dismissal occurs when a court decides to terminate a case before reaching a verdict. Oklahoma law states that the court must respond to a motion to dismiss within 15 days. This decision can happen for various reasons, such as lack of evidence, procedural errors or a plea deal. When the court dismisses a case, it means that it drops the charges against the defendant, and does not hold them accountable for the alleged offense.


Expungement refers to the process of sealing or erasing a criminal record. A dismissal only ends the legal proceedings. An expungement goes a step further by removing the record of the arrest or conviction from public view. This means that the individual can legally deny or withhold information about the expunged offense in most circumstances.

Eligibility differences between dismissal and expungement

The eligibility criteria for a dismissal versus an expungement differ. A dismissal typically occurs during the legal process, often at the discretion of the prosecution or the court. An expungement is a post-conviction remedy available to individuals who meet specific criteria, such as completing probation or demonstrating good behavior.

Benefits of dismissal and expungement

Both dismissal and expungement offer benefits to individuals with a criminal record. A dismissal can prevent the case from proceeding to trial, saving time, money and consequences. An expungement provides the opportunity for individuals to reintegrate into society without the stigma of a criminal record.

When facing criminal charges, a dismissal or expungement can be a favorable outcome for the accused.