A criminal record can have a serious impact on your ability to lead a stable life. Most employers and landlords run criminal background checks, which can make it difficult to secure employment and housing. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand the expungement process in Pennsylvania, which can be an effective solution to help you leave the past behind, improve your quality of life and find success.
What is Expungement?
If you meet certain criteria, the expungement process can completely remove all record that you were ever charged or convicted of a crime. In Pennsylvania, you can have charges removed from your record if they were dismissed, you were found not guilty, if the charges were withdrawn and when no further action is taken. Charges can also be expunged if you pleaded guilty of or were found guilty of a summary offense, provided that you were not arrested or prosecuted for a period of five years following the conviction. There are also specific rules and requirements for those seeking expungement of juvenile arrests and convictions.
A summary offense is the most minor type of criminal offense in Pennsylvania, but conviction for a summary offense is still considered a criminal conviction. Summary offenses include minor retail theft, loitering, disorderly conduct and harassment, among others. The PA Legislature also recently passed a “Clean Slate” law, which expands the types of that may be eligible for expungement.
In some Pennsylvania counties, Section 17 and ARD programs allow first-time offenders to have their records expunged after fulfilling all court-ordered requirements. If you are eligible for one of these programs, it is vital to seek the assistance of a Chester County criminal lawyer to ensure the expungement process is properly carried out after all of your obligations have been filled.
The Expungement Process
In order to obtain an expungement, you must file a petition for expungement with appropriate documentation and filing fees at the Clerk of Courts in the applicable county. A hearing will then be scheduled in the Court of Common Pleas. A judge will hear your testimony and review evidence, and issue an Order for Expungement if they determine it is appropriate. The Clerk of Courts will send certified copies to all agencies that hold your record. When these agencies receive the Order, they must destroy all paperwork and electronic information pertaining to your case. Your defense attorneys in West Chester should follow up with these agencies and monitor their compliance to ensure your records are completely cleared. They will also collect verifications to ensure you receive documentation of the expungement from each agency. If you have been charged with a felony or are not eligible for an expungement for other reasons, you may submit an application the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to receive a pardon from the governor.
The rules surrounding expungement can be complex. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties can explain your legal options, discuss possible strategies and advise you on the best course of action to expunge or clear your criminal record.