An expungement has your criminal record hidden or removed. People often seek expungements when they want to avoid having a criminal history seen by others who perform routine background checks. An expungement gives you a clean slate and lets you put your criminal record behind you.
Pennsylvania law does allow for the expungement of criminal records in certain situations. Contact a criminal defense lawyer to learn more about this process.
Why Seek an Expungement?
Having a criminal record can create obstacles in your life. You may have to disclose or explain your criminal history in any of the following situations:
- Applying for a job
- Seeking a loan
- Looking for an apartment
- Trying to get a professional license
- Applying to college
If you don’t seek an expungement, your criminal record will remain visible to anyone who performs a background check. This will continue even if your records are from many years ago. You may avoid trying to get a better job or applying for a mortgage because you don’t want to deal with your criminal record.
Getting your record expunged may open up more job or business opportunities. You’ll also feel relieved to not have your criminal record weighing you down.
Who Can Get an Expungement in Pennsylvania?
Not all crimes can be expunged. Pennsylvania law allows for expungement in the following cases:
- DUI charges, when you’re a first offender
- Drug possession
- Other minor misdemeanors
- Non-violent 2nd or 3rd-degree misdemeanors
You’ll need to wait several years after your offense to seek expungement. Depending on the type of offense, five to ten years must pass without another offense before you can seek expungement of your criminal record.
Certain offenses, such as firearms offenses and sexual assault, are not eligible for expungement. Most offenses that allow expungement are less serious crimes that do not involve violence.
If you have questions about your eligibility for expungement, contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your specific situation.
Expungement for Non-Convictions
If you were arrested but never convicted of a crime, you’ll still have a criminal record that other people can view. This can cause issues when trying to rent an apartment or apply for a job.
If you enter into an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program in Pennsylvania, you may also need to seek an expungement. The ARD program is offered to many first-time DUI or drug offenders. It allows you to avoid having a conviction on your record, but there may still be a record of your arrest until you request an expungement.
Upon completion of the ARD program, you still need to formally request expungement if you want a clean criminal history. You would need to use the same expungement process that’s used for other criminal records.
The Expungement Process
Expungement will not happen automatically. You’ll need to follow the correct procedures to request an expungement from the appropriate court. The first step is to file a petition with the appropriate court.
Filing a Petition
Pennsylvania law sets forth the following items that should be included in a petition filed to request expungement:
- Your name and contact information
- The name of the judge and address of the court that heard your case
- The date of the events leading to your charges
- The nature of your charges
- Why the record should be expunged
You’ll need to verify that the information you provide is true and correct to the best of your knowledge. You’ll also generally need to attach a copy of your criminal history report.
Consent or Objection of the Court
The district attorney will have 60 days to either agree to the expungement by giving their consent or to request a hearing. The judge then has 14 days to grant or deny the petition or to schedule a hearing.
If consent is given, the expungement order may be granted by the judge. If there’s an objection, you will need to have a hearing.
The Expungement Hearing
If a hearing is needed, a judge will hear from you and the district attorney. The judge will then enter an order either denying or granting the expungement.
Getting a criminal defense attorney is a good idea if your case requires a hearing. You want to make sure you do everything in your power to present a strong case for expungement.
After the judge makes a decision, the order will stay for 30 days pending an appeal.
Talk About Criminal Expungement With an Attorney
Before you seek an expungement, talk to a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. Make sure you under the following items before moving forward with an expungement petition:
- Whether you qualify for an expungement
- What an expungement can and can’t do
- What to expect during the expungement process
Request a free consultation to discuss your expungement case and start the process of putting your criminal record behind you.