Expungement and record sealing are essentially identical, since both reference a legal process to clear your criminal record of convictions or arrests. Generally, record sealing applies to juvenile records that can be sealed when you attain the age of 18, though Pennsylvania only references expungement for adult or juvenile records. Expungement or record sealing renders any criminal record of certain convictions and arrests inaccessible to the general public. Pennsylvania, though, only allows expungement if you have no record of a felony or misdemeanor conviction.
If you have a qualifiable criminal offense in Pennsylvania, you certainly should consider an expungement since a criminal record presents substantial barriers to your finding employment, suitable housing, becoming bonded, obtaining a gun permit or a professional license. It can also impede your ability to travel internationally or to enroll in certain academic institutions.
Are You Eligible?
Pennsylvania law allows expungement of summary offenses, which are minor crimes tried by a judge only and include offenses such as traffic tickets and contempt of court. Your summary offense conviction may be expunged so long as you pled guilty, had the citation dismissed, completed an Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition or had the court order your conviction expunged. You must also have satisfied all terms and conditions of your sentence and be free of arrest or conviction for five years following your disposition.
Your criminal history also qualifies for expungement once you reach the age of 70 and have not been arrested or prosecuted for 10 years following your release from incarceration.
If you are a convicted felon or have an offense ineligible for expungement, you can apply for a pardon, which, if granted, permits you to truthfully state under oath that you have never been convicted of the crime. The Board of Pardons considers your application and makes a recommendation to the governor.
Your petition for a pardon involves a filing fee, passport photo, copy of your criminal record, and statements or letters from peers in your community in support of your request. It may take up to three years to fully investigate your case before a recommendation is made.