What Types of Cases Can You Get Expunged in Pennsylvania?

Expungement written on a criminal record.

There has been a lot of news in the past year about changes to Pennsylvania expungement law. The state has even started automatically shielding certain arrest and criminal records from public view. But it can be hard to tell what will be erased, and what “expungement” means under the new state law. An experienced Delaware County expungement lawyer can help you navigate the changes. Find out what types of cases you can get expunged or sealed, and whether you need to act to get a clean slate.

Pennsylvania Clean Slate Law

On June 28, 2019, Pennsylvania rolled out its new “Clean Slate” law. This law allows certain criminal history records related to arrests, summary convictions and low-level misdemeanors to be automatically shielded from public access -- including private employers and landlords. This law is designed to make it easier for Pennsylvania residents to move on from minor law enforcement issues in their past. Clean Slate automatically applies to:

  • Second and third degree misdemeanors, or misdemeanors punishable by 2 years or less in prison
  • Summary convictions
  • Charges at least 18 months old with no conviction and no active legal proceedings

In the year since Pennsylvania put Clean Slate into practice, approximately 35 million low-level criminal records have been removed from public view. However, not every offense will get swept behind the curtain. Clean Slate does not apply to:

  • Crimes that put people in danger
  • Family-related crimes
  • Firearm offenses
  • Felonies
  • Indecent exposure
  • Certain sex offense-related crimes
  • Other ineligible offenses

You may also be excluded from the Clean Slate program based on the number of offenses on your criminal history. If you have 2 or more offenses punishable by 2 years or more in prison, or 4 or more offenses punishable by 1 year in prison on your record, it will not be shielded automatically.

Petition to Seal Criminal Records

When your criminal charges or convictions make you ineligible for automatic Clean Slate processes, you may still qualify to have your record sealed in what is called Act 5 limited access. Limited access applies to a broader range of offenses than Clean Slate, including:

  • Simple assaults
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Harassment
  • Criminal coercion
  • Sale of a firearm (2nd or 3rd degree misdemeanors)
  • Corruption of minors (summary offenses)
  • Carrying loaded weapons other than firearms

However, unlike the automatic Clean Slate process, you must file a petition in the county where you were convicted to qualify. You also must have finished serving your punishment and have paid all your court costs and fees before your petition will be granted. In addition to criminal records covered by the Clean Slate law, Act 5 limited access petitions can be filed after 10 years for criminal records related to first degree qualifying misdemeanors and ungraded offenses with a penalty of less than 5 years in prison.

Act 5 also allows you to petition for limited access to records related to higher severity crimes -- including felonies -- after longer periods have passed. There are lists of crimes that qualify under Act 5 after 15 years and 20 years. However, crimes that involve putting people in danger, crimes against families, firearm offenses, and certain sexual offenses still don’t qualify.

If you have a felony conviction on your record, or aren’t sure if your first degree misdemeanor fits under Act 5, speak to Delaware County expungement lawyer to see if you qualify. Your Delaware County record expungement attorney can review your criminal history, determine if you qualify, and petition the court to seal your criminal records.

Sealed Records Have Not Been Expunged

Nothing discussed in this blog post so far technically qualifies as an expungement. In a formal expungement, the record of your arrest or conviction is erased -- removed from the criminal history database entirely. Under either Clean Slate or Act 5 limited access laws, the criminal record still exists, but it isn’t accessible by the general public. It may still be used by law enforcement, prosecutors and courts in later sentencing hearings, and the FBI. Because these records are still visible on FBI background checks, they may affect your employment at schools, hospitals, and casinos.

Formal Expungement of Criminal Records

If you need to completely remove information in your criminal history, you may need to file a petition for expungement. Expungement is only available in limited cases:

  • Where there is no conviction or pending action following 18 months after arrest
  • Court-ordered expungement of non-conviction records
  • Underage drinking convictions for people 21 years or older
  • 70 year old petitioners free from arrest or prosecution for 10 years after final release
  • 3 or more years after the person has died
  • Summary offenses with 5 years free of arrest or prosecution following conviction
  • Certain juvenile delinquency cases involving summary offenses

Unless the case falls within the Clean Slate act, if you need a conviction expunged you will need to petition the court where the charges were filed. Even if you qualify, the judge does not have to grant your petition to expunge your criminal record (except in juvenile cases). The judge will consider several factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Your employment history
  • Your criminal record
  • How long ago the arrest happened
  • Whether the prosecutor recommends or opposes expungement and why
  • What special negative consequences you may face if your expungement is denied

This is where the help of an experienced Delaware County record expungement lawyer can help. If you need to file a petition for Act 5 limited access or expungement, your attorney can help explain your circumstances, and advocate on your behalf, showing the judge just what will happen if he or she denies your request.

Don’t try to get your criminal record expunged on your own. At Berman & Associates, our experienced expungement attorneys in Media, PA understand Pennsylvania's Clean Slate, limited access, and expungement laws. We will help you determine if you qualify, file a petition, and advocate on your behalf to clear your record. If you are in Delaware County, Media, Pennsylvania, or the surrounding areas, we welcome you to contact us to speak with us about how we can help you repair your record so you can move on with your life.

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