Whether you're currently enrolled in graduate school or hoping to gain admittance to one, past infractions could be a major hindrance. Though it is not always the case, graduate schools and prospective employers may view arrests and convictions as disqualifiers.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania is leading the pack on a nationwide “ban the box” movement, making it easier to expunge and seal past convictions and arrests. Despite lowered barriers to expungement, the legal process can still be complicated, and effective legal help is always beneficial.
Attorney Joseph Lento is ready to fight for your future, whether in a graduate school classroom or the professional realm.
Can My Criminal History Affect Entry to Graduate School?
It could. About 70% of four-year colleges require you to report prior criminal history when applying. One of Pennsylvania's premier universities, Villanova, requires students to undergo a criminal background check under certain circumstances. Graduate programs may be even more probing in the admissions process.
Universities are not always required to give reasons for a rejection. For all you know, your criminal record could be the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Even if graduate program admissions boards are open-minded, there is absolutely no benefit to having a history of arrest or conviction. Such a record can only harm your prospects of admittance.
Can My Criminal History Affect My Job Prospects After Graduation?
Again, it could. Employers generally have the right to ask about your criminal history. It can bar you from specific jobs, including certain federal positions.
The federal government has attempted to limit employer discrimination based on criminal history. However, legislation like the Fair Chance Act only delays when prospective employers can run a criminal history check. Interested employers may rescind a conditional job offer based on the results of your background check.
Like graduate school applicants, an imperfect criminal history can only harm job applicants.
Can I Remove Prior Arrests and Convictions From My Record?
You may be able to remove arrests and convictions from your record, with only law enforcement having access to your original record. This removal of your arrest or conviction from the public record is called expungement.
Another worthwhile possibility for current and prospective graduate students is limited access. “Limited access” refers to the sealing of certain arrests or offenses on your record. Law enforcement agencies and parties with sufficient privilege may still see a sealed record, but the typical employer will not.
Sealing or expunging a record may drastically reduce the chances that you will be:
- Rejected from a graduate program due to past arrests or convictions
- Passed over by would-be employers due to your criminal history
The severity of the offense that you hope to seal or expunge may determine your eligibility for either action.
What Offenses Can an Attorney Expunge in Pennsylvania?
18 Pa.C.S. § 9122 is the statute that governs expungement in the state of Pennsylvania. Relatively new legislation like the Fair Chance Act has lowered the bar for sealing criminal records, but the standard for expungement remains high.
You may generally be permitted to expunge:
- Any arrest that did not lead to a conviction
- A conviction for a summary offense, the least serious class of criminal offense in Pennsylvania
- Convictions for which you have completed Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or another diversion program
Individuals of advanced age may also be eligible for expungement. 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122 (b) notes that someone who is “70 years of age and has been free of arrest or prosecution for ten years following final release from confinement or supervision” may be eligible for expungement of their record. Though some graduate students pursue education late in life, this condition may not apply to most.
The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons (BOP) notes that you may also petition for expungement in the case of a pardoned offense.
What Offenses Can Be Sealed in Pennsylvania?
Sealing your record may be easier to attain than expungement. Pennsylvania has been proactive in sealing many criminal records, with its efforts typified by the Clean Slate Act.
This Clean Slate Act automatically shields certain arrests and convictions from public view when:
- Ten years have passed since the conviction
- The offender has been “free from conviction of offenses punishable by a year or more in prison” for ten consecutive years
- The offender has abided by all other court-ordered conditions
Clean Slate-eligible records include:
- Non-conviction arrests
- Second- and third-degree misdemeanors
- Misdemeanors punishable by two years or less in prison
- Summary convictions
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania lists several offenses that are not generally eligible for expungement or automatic record sealing. Do not give up hope if you've been convicted of one or more of these offenses, though. Speak with a knowledgeable attorney before assuming that nothing can be done. While felonies and certain misdemeanors are not generally expungable or eligible for sealing, there may be exceptions.
Remember that Pennsylvania's Clean Slate Act automatically seals certain records after ten years. Your attorney may initiate a quicker sealing of your record by filing a Petition for Order for Limited Access.
One or more cases on your record could already be sealed, unbeknownst to you. Your attorney will see if this is the case before filing a petition for expungement or sealing your record.
Retain Experienced Criminal Record Expungement Lawyer Joseph Lento Today
If you've put in the time and effort necessary to reach or emerge from graduate school, you are not a victim of circumstances. You put in the work necessary to succeed, but your background could be weighing you down.
Expungement or sealing of your record could remove the weight of your past. Either of these steps may remove a significant blemish from your record. Graduate school entrance boards and prospective employers will evaluate you on your merits, not your imperfect past.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands the complicated expungement process. He will fight for the best possible outcome for your case. Trust your future to him and his team. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.