New Expungement Laws in Pennsylvania
In today’s world, a criminal conviction can make it hard for people to maximize their professional potential (get a best possible job). Historically, no criminal convictions — no matter how minor — could ever be expunged from a person’s criminal record. The only exceptions were (1) if a person reached 70 years of age and had been crime-free for 10 years and (2) if a person had been dead for at least three years.
Fortunately, things are starting to change. In 2004, the Pennsylvania legislature changed the law to permit certain summary offense convictions (such as disorderly conduct and harassment) to be expunged if a person remained crime-free for five years.
And, in February of 2016, Governor Wolf signed into law a bill allowing for the expungement of certain misdemeanor convictions. Under this new law most misdemeanors of the second and third degree, and ungraded misdemeanors, may now be expunged after 10 years.
There are exceptions to the rule, and not all misdemeanors that fit into these categories may be expunged. Specifically, the following types of charges, although they may otherwise qualify under the new expungement law, may not be expunged:
Many exceptions to the rule exist. If any apply, you are not eligible for the new class of expungement.
• An offense punishable by imprisonment for more than two years
• Four or more offenses punishable for one or more years
• Simple Assault (misdemeanor of the second degree)
• Sexual Intercourse with an Animal
• Impersonating a Public Servant
• Intimidation of Witnesses or Victims
• Retaliation against Witnesses or Victims
• Any crime involving sex offender registration (Megan’s Law)
Limited Access Expungement Orders
The new law creates a new class of expungements — “Limited Access Expungements”. For matters that are expunged under the new law, law enforcement (the Pennsylvania State Police) must maintain the record but can only disseminate it to other law enforcement agencies. This means that the record will still exist but that the state police may not put it on its general database or disseminate the records to any individual, company or non-criminal- justice government agency.
All expungements involve seeking a court order stating that a record must be expunged. The standard expungement order provides that all government agencies with a record of the incident must destroy their records (fingerprints, photographs, police reports, etc.) and delete the information from databases. The end result is that (with some exceptions) the entire criminal record of the offense is fully expunged and cannot be found by anyone.
With the new class of expungements, judges will sign an order granting government agencies “limited access” to the criminal record. is slightly different. Under the new law, these new misdemeanor expungements are subject to a “limited access” order. That is, the presiding judge will sign an order permitting the state police to maintain the record but only permit its release to other criminal justice agencies (such as district attorney’s offices if they are running a background check on a criminal defendant). This “limited access” procedure is similar to the “sealing” of a record which is the name of the process in some other states.
Expungements Are Not Automatic
It is important to note that expungements are not automatic under the new or pre- existing law. A person must file a petition requesting the judge to sign the appropriate expungement order.
Typically, a hearing will be scheduled giving the Commonwealth (the DA’s Office) the opportunity to be heard. Often the DA’s Office will agree that expungement of the record is appropriate; however if the DA’s Office contests the petition, a judge will preside over the hearing. The goal of the expungement process is to have the judge sign the expungement order so that certified copies of the order may be served on the all the agencies that have a record of the offense.
I am Blue Bell Pennsylvania Criminal Attorney Erik Petersen and I have handles many criminal expungement cases in Pennsylvania. Call my office today to discuss how I can help you through this situation.
An expungement is a process by which criminal records are destroyed, sealed or erased. Once the process is completed, the criminal record is considered to be “expunged”. Expungments do not happen automatically — even if a person completes a first-time offender’s program such as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD Program) or the charges are dismissed. A record may only be expunged if you take action to file an expungement petition with the Court of Common Pleas in the county in which the record exists.
The Expungement Process
To get your record expunged, you must first file an Expungement Petition with the Clerk of Courts Office. There will then be a hearing at which you lawyer will have the burden of demonstrating that the record should, indeed, be expunged. Many times the District Attorney’s Office will not object to an Expungement Petition — particularly if the charges were dismissed or the person completed the ARD Program for charges such as DUI or Retail Theft (shoplifting). But the expungement cannot occur without a hearing at which the judge signs the Expungement Order.
The Expungement Order will instruct the criminal agencies that have a record of the incident to destroy their records and delete any information relating to the incident from any databases to which they contribute.
It is important to have an expungement attorney work with you to make sure that your record is truly expunged. Even if you succeed in having a judge sign an Expungement Order, if your attorney does not aggressively follow up with the criminal agencies that have a record of the incident and contribute to the databases that people can access, the expungement process is not complete.
The Types of Records That Can Be Expunged
The unfortunate reality is that most criminal records cannot be expunged. Expungement is only available in certain cases and where specific results have occurred.
Expungements are possible after the following court dispositions:
- Successful completion of the ARD Program
- Successful completion of Section 17 Probation
- All charges are dismissed or withdrawn
- A plea bargain where the most serious charges have been dismissed
- A summary conviction in PA where at least five years have elapsed (in certain cases)
Why Get Your Record Expunged?
Even if you are found “not guilty” in a case or successfully complete the ARD Program (resulting in the case being dismissed), the record of the case can be found in many criminal agencies and databases. This is unfortunate because people can continue to be haunted by this encounter with the law even if there was no conviction. Although there is effort and cost involved in getting your record expunged, it is absolutely worth it.
In this day and age, it is often impossible to get a job if you have anything on your record. For anyone who can get an expungement, it is important to hire the right lawyer to do the job right. Feel free to contact the Montgomery County PA Expungement Lawyer Erik Petersen to get your record expunged the right way.
No Guaranty of Expungement
There is no guaranty that you can get your record expunged even if you completed the ARD Program or your criminal charges were dismissed. You need to complete the appropriate paperwork — including filing an Expungement Petition — and then convince the judge that your record should be expunged. No one has an absolute right to an expungement. It is important to contact a lawyer so that you understand all of the required procedures and are prepared to make sure that your record is fully expunged.
To expunge a person’s record the right way, an attorney must follow the procures completely and pay complete attention to detail. It makes no sense to pursue an expungement without making sure it is done the right way. I have certainly spoken to many clients who worked — prior to working with me — thought their record was expunged but found out the hard way that it wasn’t done the right way. The sad fact is that where an expungement isn’t completed thoroughly, people (and potential employers) can still find the record.
I am certainly willing to discuss getting your record expunged for you. Please call me today to discuss getting your criminal record expunged.
Let a Montgomery County PA ARD Expungement Lawyer Help You
As your DUI / ARD expungement lawyer, I can help you get into the ARD Program and, at the end of the case, get your criminal record expunged. Call Montgomery County PA Criminal Defense/ DUI Lawyer Erik Petersen today.
I proudly defend those accused of criminal charges, drug charges, DUI, property crimes, violent crimes, weapons charges and sex offenses throughout Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. This includes Abington, Ambler, Blue Bell, Conshohocken, Haverford, Lansdale, Cheltenham Township, Hatboro, Hatfield, Jenkintown, Pottstown, Upper Merion Township, Upper Dublin Township, Lower Providence Township, Upper Moreland Township and Horsham Township.