A criminal conviction or arrest record can have a negative impact on many aspects of one's life, including their ability to get certain kinds of employment. In the State of Pennsylvania, you're required to disclose whether you've been convicted of a crime when you apply for EMT or paramedic licensing. In addition, a prospective employer will likely run a background check on you—and in certain cases, a criminal conviction can result in you being denied employment. For these reasons, it's a smart idea to determine if your criminal history is eligible for expungement. The Lento Law Firm has compiled the following key information to help you make informed choices about seeking expungement.
Will my criminal record stop me from getting licensed or hired as an EMT or paramedic?
Not necessarily. It depends on the type of crime and the severity of the crime—as well as how honest you are in reporting it. When applying to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for EMS certification, the state requires you to disclose and provide documentation for any criminal conviction greater than a summary offense. Even then, they are most concerned about specific criminal convictions that damage public trust—for example, theft, assault, sexual abuse, etc. An arrest or conviction won't automatically disqualify you, but it could if the conviction is concerning to the board. Furthermore, if you fail to disclose your criminal history and it shows up on a background check, the board could revoke your certification even after you've started working.
What can I do to remove bad marks from my criminal record?
Pennsylvania law allows eligible people to have their criminal or arrest records sealed or expunged. Expungements can erase arrests that do not lead to convictions, as well as lesser criminal convictions. In cases involving more serious offenses, your record may be sealed rather than expunged. Whether you are eligible for record sealing or complete expungement, you can legally state, “I've never been arrested or convicted” when applying for employment as a paramedic or EMT.
Understanding the difference between expungement and record sealing
In Pennsylvania, the terms expungement and record sealing refer to two different processes. Record sealing is also known as “Limited Access,” which means that your records aren't erased, but they're removed from your public information, so most employers can't see them. Expungement, on the other hand, refers to destroying all records related to one's arrest or charges. In most cases, both procedures have similar effects: Incriminating records will no longer show up in standard background checks, and they'll only be visible to certain people and agencies with need-to-know access.
In Pennsylvania, full expungement is typically reserved for arrests that don't result in a conviction and some lesser summary offenses. Most other eligible criminal records will be sealed rather than expunged. A skilled defense lawyer can help you determine your eligibility and guide you through the process of petitioning the court.
What types of crimes are eligible for expungement/record sealing?
Pennsylvania has updated its laws in recent years to allow for the sealing or expungement of more records. The Clean Slate Act of 2018, the most recent change in the law, allows certain conviction records to be sealed automatically after a specified time frame, provided there are no other arrests or convictions. You can also petition the court to seal records that are not sealed automatically.
The following are examples of offenses that could be eligible for expungement (complete removal):
- Arrests that didn't result in a conviction
- Instances where the defendant went through an ARD program (Accelerative Rehabilitative Disposition) with the agreement to have their record expunged upon completion
- Low-level “summary offenses” can be expunged after five years without any further criminal arrests/convictions
- Anyone over 70 who has not been charged with a crime in the 10 years preceding may have their record expunged.
The following are examples of offenses that may be eligible for record sealing (limited access):
- Summary offenses (automatic within 10 years)
- Most 2nd-degree and 3rd-degree misdemeanors (automatic after 10 years with no other criminal activity)
- Other 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree misdemeanors (by petitioning the court 10 years after the completion of one's sentence, with no other criminal activity)
Certain offenses are ineligible to be stricken from your criminal record. These include (but are not limited to) certain felonies, firearms offenses, sex offenses, and criminal acts against children.
The above are listed only as guidelines—the list of examples and exceptions is long and complex. For best results, consult with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney before petitioning the courts to request limited access or expungement of your record.
Pennsylvania Attorney for Expungement
A criminal record can cause issues when applying to be an EMT or paramedic in Pennsylvania—but it isn't an insurmountable problem. You may be eligible to get previous convictions expunged or sealed, which would greatly improve your chances of getting work. It's best not to try and petition the court yourself because it can be a complicated process, and court employees can't offer much in the way of help. Hiring an experienced attorney who understands the rules regarding expungement can go a long way toward a successful outcome. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many of his clients take advantage of Pennsylvania's expungement laws, so their criminal records don't act as a dead weight on their careers. Contact the Lento Law Firm today to see how we can help.