A criminal or arrest record can have a disruptive effect on many aspects of someone's life. This is particularly true for those whose employment depends upon state approval. If you are applying for a job as an employee of the State of Pennsylvania, an arrest or conviction on your criminal background check could disqualify you from being hired. It is legal in Pennsylvania for any employer (including the state) to refuse to hire you based on your criminal record. In such cases, it's a good idea to see whether your criminal record is eligible for expungement.
Will my criminal record automatically disqualify me from a state employee position?
Not necessarily. Under Pennsylvania law, you may be eligible to hold a state job even if you have been convicted of a crime. However, you might be disqualified if the position requires access to sensitive information or if your conviction suggests increased risk (for example, you probably wouldn't be hired to handle money if you had been convicted for embezzlement). That being said, a criminal record could still hurt your chances of getting hired.
How can expungement help me?
Pennsylvania law permits eligible individuals to have their criminal and arrest records expunged or sealed, including individuals seeking state employment. Expungements generally can be used to expunge arrests not leading to convictions as well as some lesser criminal convictions. Record sealing is more common for criminal records containing more serious offenses. These two motions can be used to prevent records from being included in background checks, which means prospective employers can't see them. Having an expunged or sealed record also means you can legally say you were not arrested or convicted when applying for a job.
What is the difference between record sealing and expungement?
Although the terms record sealing and expungement are often used interchangeably, they are two very distinct processes, especially in Pennsylvania. Record sealing (officially called “limited access” means that your records are kept secret from the public and cannot be accessed except in specific circumstances. Record expungement refers to the destruction of all records related to your arrest or charge except for use by law enforcement agencies. In almost all situations, expungement and record sealing have the same effect: to remove this incriminating information from public records and background checks.
Most eligible criminal conviction records in Pennsylvania will be sealed rather than expunged. An experienced defense lawyer will be able to help you determine eligibility and guide you through the entire process.
Determining Eligibility for Record Expungement or Sealing
In recent years, Pennsylvania has revised its laws to allow for the expungement and or sealing of records for more people. The most recent reform, the Clean Slate Act of 2018, makes certain conviction records eligible for automatic sealing after a set period of time, provided the person has no further arrests or convictions. If a record is not automatically sealed, you may petition the court to seal it.
Currently, the following types of offenses may be eligible for expungement (complete removal):
- Arrests that did not result in a conviction
- Offenses where the defendant went through an ARD (Accelerative Rehabilitative Disposition) program to resolve it
- Low-level “summary offenses” after five years with no further criminal arrests/convictions
- Anyone who is at least 70 years old with no criminal proceedings against them in the past 10 or more years.
The following types of offenses may be eligible for record sealing (limited access):
- Summary offenses (automatic after 10 years)
- Most 2nd and 3rd-degree misdemeanors after 10 years with no further criminal activity
- Other 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree misdemeanors (by petition, 10 years after completing one's sentence and with no further criminal activity)
Some offenses are ineligible for expungement or record sealing, including many felony offenses, sex offenses, offenses that endanger other people, firearms offenses, and criminal acts toward minors (e.g., statutory rape). There are some exceptions, but the eligibility requirements can be complicated. For best results, always consult with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney before petitioning the courts for expungement or limited access.
Pennsylvania Attorney for Expungement
The State of Pennsylvania offers numerous options for eligible individuals to have their criminal records expunged or sealed, including those who seek state employment. Provided you meet the eligibility requirements, you can file for the type of relief desired by filling out the appropriate form (which will be based on the initial type of charge or arrest) and filing it at your local Court of Common Pleas. While you can go through this process on your own, filing successfully for expungement can be complicated, and court employees are often too busy and overwhelmed to provide enough guidance. If you file improperly or make a mistake on your form, your expungement could be delayed or denied. For this reason, it's always best to enlist the help of an experienced Pennsylvania expungement attorney—someone who can verify your eligibility, help you fill out the right forms, and avoid costly mistakes.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience helping clients successfully clear their criminal records through expungement or record sealing, removing these stains from their record and giving them better career opportunities in the process. To discuss your options for expungement in Pennsylvania, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.