How Do You Qualify to Have Your Criminal Record Expunged?

stacks of criminal records

When you have a criminal record, even for the smallest of charges, many doors close for you. Jobs reject you, schools refuse to take you, locations won’t let you travel there, and even more of your rights are restricted. This is true for people charged with crimes that only hurt themselves, to the worst offenses one can receive. It might seem unfair that someone caught with drugs or charged with petty theft would have the same hardships as someone who physically hurt someone. In some cases, simply being charged but not convicted will follow you forever. It’s obvious why someone would want to see their criminal record expunged. What many don’t know is that expungement is actually possible.

Several situations and laws allow courts in Pennsylvania to expunge someone’s criminal record. If you meet certain conditions or are in certain legal situations, you may be eligible to have your criminal record expunged, meaning you no longer have a record that you must disclose to potential employers or schools. If you want to learn more or want help getting your criminal record expunged, the Scranton criminal record expungement attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam can help.

How Can Your Criminal Record Be Expunged?

To get your record expunged, you would make a legal petition to the court that handled your conviction in the first place. This is commonly the Court of Common Pleas. With an attorney’s help, you can hand them a well-written petition.

It’s important to understand that some crimes cannot be expunged from your criminal records–such as murder or sexual assault–unless new evidence presents itself that you were wrongly charged and/or convicted. Otherwise, crimes of this nature cannot be expunged.

It’s also important to note that there are types of petitions you must consider. Then you must meet the requirements, but that’s only after confirming you meet certain criteria for submitting a petition.

What Charges/Convictions Can Be Expunged?

There are also only certain crimes that can be expunged. These include:

  • Second and third-degree conviction records.
  • Misdemeanors and ungraded offenses that carry a 2-year maximum sentence in prison.
  • Non-conviction records.

What are the Criteria For Submitting a Petition?

If you don’t meet the criteria, your petition will not be accepted for review, so it’s important to make sure you meet them. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney can help you understand if you can apply. The criteria include:

  • Requiring 5 years to pass since you have last been charged with any criminal proceedings. Even if they didn’t end in a conviction, that charge alone restricts you from having your record expunged.
  • The subject of the record has been dead for at least 3 years. This would be a posthumous expungement that others can seek on your behalf. This is a requirement only under the circumstance where the offender is dead.
  • No disposition of any cases involving you occurring in the past 18 months.
  • There are no pending criminal proceedings against you.

What Types of Petitions Can Be Filed for Expungement?

There are over a half dozen petitions that you can file for expungement in Pennsylvania, and they each apply for different situations. You must consult with an attorney to understand which petition you fall under and to complete a petition correctly. Some petitions don’t require all the previously stated criteria, but most do.

  • Summary Expungement: This is for summary convictions. House Bill 1543 creates the right for someone to have a summary offense expunged from their record. They must fulfill the previously stated criteria. Examples would be charges for retail theft, harassment, and disorderly conduct.
  • Juvenile Record Expungement: This is for misdemeanors and felonies in juvenile court. Juvenile court has its own record system, separate from the court system for adults.
  • ARD Expungement: Non-violent crimes that necessitate a level of rehabilitation beyond punishment can go through the ARD program. It allows someone to go through probation without a conviction, and at the end of the program, the charge is wiped from the record.
  • Section 17 Expungement: Similar to the ARD program, in that a person goes through probation without a conviction, but it is specifically for people with marijuana or paraphernalia charges.
  • Charges that were withdrawn, dismissed, or Nol-prossed: Charges that did not end in conviction, typically because you were found innocent, can be removed from your record this way.
  • Limited Expungement – Record Sealing: Small, non-violent demeanors can be sealed rather than expunged after 10 years. This distinction means that while employers and schools cannot access them, police can.
  • Charges that have been pardoned: Charges are expugnable for any crime pardoned by the Governor of Pennsylvania.
  • Convictions if you are over 70 years of age: This is the least strict process. As long as there has been no criminal activity in the last 10 years, a senior can see their felony or misdemeanor expunged from the record.

What Does a Criminal Record Expungement Not Do?

The law currently states that a potential employee is required to tell their potential employer about any and all charges on their record, even if they did not even have a conviction. If you get your criminal record expunged, or some charges on it at least, you do not have to inform anyone that they were once there.

This does not mean an employer cannot fire you or refuse to hire you if they find out about an expunged record through their own investigation. Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state, which means they can fire you at any time without giving a reason, as long as it isn’t discrimination. Firing you because you did not disclose expunged or sealed records is not considered discrimination.

Should you get your record expunged and an employer finds out about it through other means, they are still in their legal rights to reject you.

How Would Someone Find Out About an Expunged Record?

An expunged record is no longer in the files or data banks of any courthouse, so they cannot be reacquired by an investigator. That is what expungement means.

This does not mean it will be stricken from public records in things like newspapers, online articles, and public knowledge. If an employer, school, or private individual conducted or paid for a background check on you, their investigator can find out about your record from a number of factors. This means that an expunged record only completely removes legal restrictions placed on you because you have a conviction. This pertains to travel bans and being barred from owning firearms unless you have another conviction that was not expunged that also restricts such rights.

Contact Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam for Help Expunging Your Record

If you’re ready or feel that you need to begin the long process of getting your criminal record expunged, contact the Scranton criminal defense attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam. This way, you can start working on your case immediately with attorneys who will stand at your side for the long journey forward.

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