Chester County is one of Philadelphia's neighboring counties, and one of Pennsylvania's most populous counties. The county is home to several famous PA landmarks and has over 509,000 residents. All matters of law in the county are overseen by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, located in West Chester, PA. The court handles both criminal and civil matters, including post-conviction relief for defendants. Defendants with criminal records who are eligible for expungement may file a legal motion to request an expungement of their records through Chester County's Court of Common Pleas.
Expungement in Chester County, PA
The first step to expungement is determining whether or not a criminal record is eligible for expungement. Because criminal records in Pennsylvania can include arrest records and convictions, there are several factors that may determine a person's eligibility for an expungement. The simplest way to apply for an expungement is if a person has been arrested, but not convicted of the crime. In such an instance, the arrest record may be expunged; depending on the specific circumstances of the case, however, a "redaction," also known as a "partial" expungement may be the appropriate form of relief for such charges.
If a person has a conviction on their record, the process is somewhat more complex. Conviction records may still be expunged in Pennsylvania, however, the requirements are somewhat different. Some first-time criminal offenses in PA law are allowed by the Chester County District Attorney's Office to be resolved through an Accelerative Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. An ARD program will differ depending on the crime and, at times, the defendant's particular circumstances. These programs must be completed before a criminal record is eligible for expungement in Chester County, and or throughout Pennsylvania for that matter. Other methods for expungement include:
- The conviction is for a summary offense, and five (5) years have passed without criminal proceedings.
- A person is over 70 years old, and ten (10) or more years have passed since any criminal proceedings have been pressed against them.
Record Sealing in Chester County, PA
Record Sealing is, at the name implies, the process of sealing former criminal records. This process is done through Pennsylvania's "Limited Access" law, which limits the availability of the record to the public, effectively sealing them away from most background checks. In order for a person's former conviction(s) to be sealed in this way, the convictions themselves must typically be at the 2nd degree, 3rd degree, or unclassified/ungraded misdemeanor level. In addition, the person seeking relief must wait a ten (10) year period after their sentence is completed without any criminal proceedings against them.
Juvenile Expungements in Chester County, PA
When a person faces criminal charges under the age of 18, they are considered a juvenile in almost all instances. The process for expungement of juvenile records is slightly different than what is used for an adult's criminal record. The eligibility requirements for juvenile record expungement in Chester County, and throughout Pennsylvania, include:
- The juvenile charges have been dismissed.
- Juvenile supervision has concluded, and 6 months have passed without any criminal proceedings.
- The juvenile was convicted on a juvenile delinquency charge, and 5 years have passed without any criminal proceedings against.
- A person is over the age of 18 and petitions the court for expungement of a juvenile record.
Clearing Your Criminal Record in West Chester, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Expungement Process in West Chester
When expunging a criminal record in Bucks County, whether as an adult, juvenile, or after ARD is complete or sealing a criminal record in Chester County, the Chester County Court of Common Pleas will be where the matter is addressed. The Chester County Court of Common Pleas is located at 201 W. Market Street, West Chester, PA 19380.
The person seeking the expungement or criminal record sealing in Chester County will be the "petitioner" in the case, and the Chester County District Attorney's Office will be the "respondent." The Chester County District Attorney's Office is located in the Chester County Courthouse; the address, as above, is located at 201 W. Market Street, West Chester, PA 19380.
The process for an expungement or record sealing in Chester County will proceed without issue in most instances if the Chester County District Attorney's Office does not object to the expungement petition or limited access petition pursuant to Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. The specific Pennsylvania expungement or limited access law which will apply to the request for relief filed in West Chester, PA, will depend on the specifics of the Chester County criminal case itself: either Pa.R.Crim.P. 490 for summary offense expungements; Pa.R.Crim.P. 790 for standard criminal record expungements; Pa.R.Crim.P. 791 and 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122.1 in cases involving record sealing; or 18 Pa.C.S. § 9123 in cases involving juvenile records. In some instances, requesting relief based upon a combination of these Rules is sometimes required to clear a Pennsylvania criminal record in Chester County as comprehensively as possible.
Because the Chester County Court will most often decide a request for an expungement or record sealing "on the pleadings," meaning that judgment will be made on a proper petition, order, and related pleadings, persons seeking to clear their record per Pennsylvania law must make sure that their request is properly handled in all respects, and to an exacting degree. In addition, the Chester County Clerk of Courts requires one (1) original pleading and three (3) copies, with the petitioning party being responsible for serving the Chester County District Attorney's Office.
Attorney for Chester County Expungement | Attorney for Chester County Record Sealing
An expungement of a criminal record, or the sealing of a criminal record when applicable, can be invaluable for people from all walks of life; people seeking to avoid employment issues, people seeking a professional license or trying to maintain one, and students who have gotten into trouble can all benefit from such relief. The process for sealing or expunging records can, however, be confusing and frustrating, whether an adult or juvenile record is involved. In addition, the courts often expect persons who are filing for these motions to know exactly what to do, and they seldom provide reasonable direction. Because of what is potentially at stake, people seeking to clear their record may benefit from having an experienced Pennsylvania criminal record expungement attorney handle the matter to make the process go as smoothly as possible.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a proven record of success helping clients with clearing their records throughout Pennsylvania, and as importantly, he personally handles all clients' expungements and record sealings from start to finish. If you or a loved one is seeking expungement or criminal record sealing in West Chester or Chester County, PA, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.