A criminal record can make life very difficult for you in Pennsylvania. For example, you could be denied a job or access to rent or buy an apartment because of a small mistake you made ten years ago. However, depending on the type of charge and the time since your case was over, you can get your criminal record partially or fully sealed.
Qualifying for expungement in Pennsylvania
If you were arrested but never convicted, your charges were dismissed or you were found not guilty, you are automatically eligible to have your record sealed. But, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense, you must wait five years from the date of your conviction or release from prison before you can file for expungement.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you were convicted of a summary offense, which is a minor non-traffic violation punishable by no more than 90 days in jail or a fine of $300, you only have to wait two years before you can file for expungement.
The expungement process
If you are eligible for expungement, you or your criminal defense attorney should get a copy of your criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police. You can do this by mail, fax, or in person.
Next, you need to fill out an expungement petition and submit it to the court that handled your case. The petition must include:
- Your name, address, and date of birth
- The docket number of your case
- The name of the county where your case was heard
- A description of the charges against you and the outcome of your case
The court will then set a date for a hearing. At the hearing, the district attorney’s office will have an opportunity to object to your expungement. If there are no objections and the judge approves your petition, your record will be sealed.
No one will have access to your criminal record when expunged. You can confidently say that you never committed a crime when asked. However, law enforcement, courts, and some licensing boards may still be able to get access.