It can be stressful when facing criminal charges, not knowing what may happen and how long it will hang over your head. So, when charged with a crime, particularly a misdemeanor, many people are tempted to plead guilty, take the sentence, and get it over with. But a conviction for loitering and prowling at night can follow you for years. A criminal record can impact your future career and, if you're still a student, whether you can attend college or graduate school. Even a juvenile conviction can negatively impact your future. Fortunately, under Pennsylvania law, you have some options to clean up your record.
While the most thorough option for your criminal record is typically expungement, not everyone qualifies for expungement under Pennsylvania law. However, you may be able to seal your criminal record through Pennsylvania's Clean Act or Act 5 sealing options.
Charges for Loitering and Prowling at Night in Pennsylvania
You can face charges for loitering and prowling at night in Pennsylvania if you "maliciously loiter or maliciously prowl" around a home, an apartment, or any place used as a dwelling that belongs to or is occupied by someone else. The statute is very broad, stating:
Whoever at night time maliciously loiters or maliciously prowls around a dwelling house or any other place used wholly or in part for living or dwelling purposes, belonging to or occupied by another, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree.
18 Pa. Stat. § 5506. If you cut through a neighbor's backyard, you could end up facing charges for loitering or prowling at night. Your teen could face charges if they try to "TP" or "toilet paper" someone's home.
Penalties for Loitering or Prowling at Night in Pennsylvania
Prowling or loitering at night is a third-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. While that seems like "no big deal," with a conviction, you will have a criminal record. Moreover, in Pennsylvania, a conviction for a third-degree misdemeanor can be punishable by fines of $250 to $5,000 and up to 90 days in jail. You could also face more serious charges, depending on where you were and the circumstances of your arrest. Stalking, criminal mischief, and harassment can carry more serious penalties. Harassment can be a summary offense or a third-degree misdemeanor. Stalking can result in a first-degree misdemeanor conviction for a first offense. Criminal mischief is a summary offense, but if property damage occurs, it can become a felony charge.
Sealing Your Record for Loitering or Prowling at Night Through Clean Slate
Recognizing that people sometimes need a second chance, Pennsylvania recently passed legislation that allows more people to seal their criminal records. This 2019 "Clean Slate" legislation allows the state to automatically seal some criminal records after five to ten years for those who qualify. You may qualify to seal your record for loitering or prowling at night automatically if:
- You have a summary conviction or a conviction for a second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- You have an ungraded misdemeanor conviction for a crime that was punishable by two years or less in prison,
- It has been at least five to ten years since you completed your sentence, depending on the grading of the crime, or
- You don't have a conviction because of a charge dismissal or a not-guilty verdict.
If you don't have a conviction, you may have your arrest and court records automatically sealed in 18 months. You will need to wait ten years for automatic sealing under Clean Slate for a misdemeanor conviction. However, summary convictions will typically automatically seal after five years. The waiting periods can vary if you were a juvenile when convicted.
If you have a third-degree misdemeanor conviction for loitering or prowling at night in Pennsylvania, you may be eligible for automatic Clean Slate sealing after ten years. However, that can change if you have additional convictions or a first-degree misdemeanor or felony conviction for stalking or criminal mischief. If you have additional convictions or if you were a juvenile when convicted, you should talk to an experienced sealing and expungement attorney like Joseph D. Lento to discuss your options.
Sealing Your Loitering or Prowling at Night Criminal Record with an Act 5 Petition
In some cases, you may not qualify for automatic sealing with Clean Slate. As an alternative, you may be eligible to petition the court to limit public access to your records with Pennsylvania's Act 5. While the process is not automatic, Act 5 petitions apply to a wider range of convictions. You may qualify for Act 5 sealing if:
- Your conviction was for an ungraded offense punishable by five years or less in prison,
- It's been ten years or more since you completed your sentence, including paying all fines, and
- You don't have additional arrests or convictions for any crime punishable by a year or more in prison.
Sealing a Juvenile Record for Loitering or Prowling at Night
If you have a misdemeanor conviction for loitering or prowling at night when you were under 18, you may be able to seal or expunge your record. The waiting period can be six months to five years, depending on the grading of your conviction. You will also have to meet notice requirements and a list of qualifications. If you have a juvenile conviction, an experienced Pennsylvania sealing and expungement attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options.
You Need a Skilled Pennsylvania Sealing and Expungement Attorney
If you have a conviction for loitering or prowling at night in Pennsylvania and want to clean up your criminal record, it's time to seek legal help from an experienced sealing and expungement attorney. Whether you have a juvenile or adult criminal record, attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm can help. Attorney Lento is a skilled Pennsylvania sealing and expungement attorney and has been handling these matters for years. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.