Some employers in Pennsylvania play fast and loose with background checks, making it easy for applicants with criminal convictions and past arrests to gain employment. The Federal government is not one of those employers.
Any arrest or conviction on your criminal record could prevent you from holding the federal position that you covet. Even worse, you may think you have a federal job secured only to find out that your criminal record disqualifies you. A Declaration of Federal Employment, which you complete only after receiving a federal job offer, initiates a criminal background check.
The Lento Law Firm may successfully remove criminal convictions from your record or seal certain records so that your employment status is unaffected by past mistakes or misunderstandings. Successful expungement or sealing of your criminal record may entitle you to jobs that you were once ineligible to hold.
The following information will provide important context to the expungement and record-sealing processes in Pennsylvania.
Will my criminal record prevent me from obtaining federal employment?
A criminal record may not prevent you from becoming a federal employee. Per the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an arrest alone cannot generally disqualify you from federal employment. However, a conviction alone can disqualify you, and even an arrest may initiate an investigation—the findings of which may hinder your candidacy.
The specifics of your criminal history and professional aspirations matter. As USAJOBS explains, “You may not be eligible for certain federal jobs because specific statutes or laws prohibit employment depending on the crime committed.”
Additionally, you may face termination if you fail to inform a federal employer of past arrests, convictions, or other criminal sanctions. Nobody wants their criminal record looming over them, and expungement or sealing of your record could be beneficial regardless of what your record holds.
What Can I Do to Remove Convictions or Arrests From My Record?
There are generally two options for mitigating past convictions and arrests. You may either destroy or restrict access to your criminal record through:
- Sealing of your record
Expungement constitutes a de facto incineration of your record. If a record is expunged, it ceases to exist for all intents and purposes. Sealing a record means that the public can no longer see convictions or arrests, though certain employers (possibly including federal employers) may be able to view them still.
If you achieve expungement or sealing of your record, you may no longer have to report past convictions or arrests on federal employment forms.
How Do Expungement and Record Sealing Differ?
Aside from their fundamental difference—destruction of your criminal record versus restriction of access to your record—there are key distinctions between expungement and record sealing.
Expungement is generally possible for less serious crimes and convictions. You generally must petition for expungement of your criminal record. Sealing of your record, being only a restriction (versus elimination) of certain criminal records, generally applies to a broader array of convictions. Certain records may be sealed automatically by the state of Pennsylvania.
Can I Have My Record Expunged?
Convictions that may be eligible for expungement in Pennsylvania include:
- Certain summary (S) convictions
- Felonies or misdemeanors committed by those who are now 70 or older and have been without arrest for ten years or more
- Crimes for which you have completed a particular adjudication program (such as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, program), and for which expungement was a condition of successful completion
These are general guidelines for expungement eligibility. The expungement process is nuanced and subject to exceptions.
Can I Have My Record Sealed?
Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law makes it easier for you to seal your criminal record. The Clean Slate Law enacted automatic sealing of non-convictions, as well as certain convictions. Sealing a criminal record in Pennsylvania is also referred to as “limited access.”
As a rule, you must not be arrested or convicted of a crime for ten years and abide by other court-ordered obligations during the same period to be eligible for limited access under the Clean Slate Law.
Whether done automatically or through a petition, your attorney may be able to seal the following arrests and convictions from your record:
- The same types of arrests and convictions that make you potentially eligible for expungement
- Many non-violent misdemeanor convictions
- Some violent misdemeanor convictions (such as M2 Simple Assault)
Felonies are not eligible for limited access. Serious offenses, including but not limited to first-degree felonies and certain first-degree misdemeanors (including some sex crimes and firearms offenses), may be ineligible for record sealing or expungement.
Certain convictions may require you to wait a certain time (generally ten years) before sealing your record. In some instances, your attorney may file a petition to seal or expunge your criminal record without delay depending on the circumstances of your case.
Though eligibility for expungement and sealing may appear black-and-white, the issue is often complex. It is generally in your interest to at least explore the possibility of expungement or limited access. Speaking with an attorney is generally the first step you should take.
Hiring a Pennsylvania Attorney for Expungement or Sealing of Your Record
Per the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, your attorney can initiate the expungement process “by filing a petition with the clerk of the courts of the judicial district in which the charges were disposed.”
Beyond compromising your employment with the federal government, blemishes on your criminal record may:
- Make it difficult for you to obtain quality housing
- Prevent you from getting jobs outside of the federal purview
- Affect your personal life, as your criminal records may be accessible to the general public
- Significantly diminish your quality of life
Attorney Joseph D. Lento specializes in record sealing and expungement in Pennsylvania. He and his team have extensive knowledge and experience sealing and expunging clients' criminal records. They will review your case, determine your eligibility for expungement or limited access, and may file a petition on your behalf.
The difference between obtaining a federal position and remaining on the sidelines may be your criminal record. Do not wait to take action and possibly unlock career opportunities currently barred from you.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 for more details about how we can help you. You can also reach us online using this link.