By some estimates, one in three adults in the United States has a criminal record. For many people, these are for low-level offenses like marijuana possession, disorderly conduct or DUI. Unfortunately, that one-time mistake can stain a person’s record for decades. For some people, that can make it hard to find jobs that pay well.
That is why many states have an expungement and record sealing process. In Pennsylvania, even after changes made in 2016, the law is still pretty restrictive about who qualifies.
Here in Pennsylvania, most people convicted of non-violent summary offenses and 2nd- and 3rd-degree misdemeanors who have maintained a clean record for 10 years are eligible for expungement. This includes offenses like:
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Disorderly conduct
- Reckless endangerment
- 3rd-degree assault (assault that has been ruled mutual combat)
What happens when a judge grants an expungement?
When you receive an expungement, you can legally answer on job applications and other similar forms that you have a clean criminal record. When a potential employer or landlord runs a background check, they will not be able to find a record of your conviction.
Getting an expungement is not a cure-all
While some states fully destroy all records of your arrest and conviction, this is not the case in Pennsylvania. State law enforcement will maintain a record of your arrest and conviction that they will have access to. If you are ever arrested again, prosecutors will still be able to use that arrest against you. Additionally, any news articles about your arrest will still be public record.
What do I need to do?
Getting an expungement is not easy. Prosecutors have a chance to object, and a judge may also decide not to grant your request. Your first move if you have any questions about getting a fresh start is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Your attorney should be familiar with the local prosecutors, judges and the process for filing an expungement petition. This will put you in the best position for a successful outcome, which will mean regaining control of your reputation.