A criminal record can lead to a wide range of repercussions over time, including a restriction on certain occupations you may qualify for. Anyone applying for professional licensure or to work as a pharmacist in Pennsylvania must pass a criminal background screening, the results which could have an impact on your ability to become licensed or hired as a pharmacist. However, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows certain qualified individuals to have criminal records erased or sealed, basically removing any incriminating information from the background check. The following information has been compiled by the Lento Law Firm to help you understand how a criminal record can interfere with your pharmacist's license and how expungement might be possible.
Will my criminal record automatically disqualify me from working as a pharmacist in Pennsylvania?
Not necessarily. Not every criminal conviction would stop you from having a pharmacist's license or working in this profession. The Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy will mainly be looking at criminal convictions from the past 10 years when considering your application. Specifically, the following types of crimes are most likely to disqualify you from working as a pharmacist in the state:
- Felony convictions relating to controlled substances (i.e., drug charges)
- Felony convictions related to “crimes of moral turpitude” (e.g., theft, fraud, murder, sex offenses, crimes against children, etc.)
- DUI convictions (which may point to a substance abuse problem)
If you have a criminal conviction of any kind and fail to disclose it on your application, it could be grounds to deny your license if it turns up on your background check.
What can I do if there are disqualifying convictions on my criminal record?
If you meet the eligibility criteria, Pennsylvania law allows you to petition to have your criminal and arrest records sealed or expunged. You can have lesser convictions expunged from your record, as well as arrests not resulting in convictions. For more serious offenses, your record won't be expunged but rather sealed. Either way, the incriminating information no longer shows up on background checks, and generally speaking, you can legally state that you have not been convicted or arrested for a crime. The one limitation to this general proposition is that if a record is sealed, professional licensing boards, including the Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy, will be able to access a sealed record. Additionally, the questions that licensing boards will ask will generally be expansive and may require disclosure even if a record is expunged.
What is the difference between record sealing and expungement?
Pennsylvania has two separate processes for clearing negative information off your background check: “expungement” and “record sealing.” Record sealing (also referred to as “Limited Access”) means that records are not deleted but instead removed from public records to prevent unauthorized people from seeing them. Expungement refers to the destruction of all records related to an arrest or conviction. Both have the same result: your background check shows up as clean.
Pennsylvania only allows full expungement for arrests that don't result in a conviction or other lesser offenses. All other eligible criminal records will be sealed. A skilled defense lawyer can help you determine your eligibility for expungement or record sealing and guide you through the petitioning process.
What crimes are eligible to be expunged, and which can be sealed?
Recent reforms to Pennsylvania's criminal laws allow more citizens to have their criminal records sealed or expunged. The Clean Slate Act of 2018, the most recent law reform, allows certain conviction records to be automatically sealed after a specified time period, provided there have not been any other arrests or convictions. You can also petition the court for record sealing or expungement if an eligible record is not automatically removed.
Below are some examples of offenses that might be eligible for expungement (complete deletion from the record):
- Arrests that do not result in a conviction (i.e., dismissed or acquitted).
- Cases where the defendant has agreed to complete an ARD program (Accelerative Rehabilitative Disposition) in return for record expungement.
- Lesser summary offenses (after five years, with no further arrests or convictions).
- Anyone over 70 years old who has not been charged with or convicted of any crime in the past 10 years can have their record expunged.
Below are some examples of offenses that may be eligible for record sealing (limited access):
- Summary offenses are automatically sealed after 10 years.
- Most misdemeanors of the 2nd or 3rd degree are automatically sealed after ten years, provided there is no other criminal activity.
- You may petition the court for the sealing of records for other 1st, second, or third-degree misdemeanors 10 years after you have completed your sentence.
Certain offenses cannot be expunged or sealed. These include, but are not limited to: sexual offenses, firearms offenses, violent crimes, sex offenses, criminal acts against children, and numerous other felonies. That being said, if it has been more than 10 years since your conviction for these types of offenses, the State Board of Pharmacy may still approve your licensing application even without having these offenses sealed.
There are many exceptions to these guidelines, so don't be discouraged if your situation isn't covered in the list above. We recommend that you consult a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney before you file any petition to have your record sealed or expunged. The attorney can give you advice, verify your eligibility, coordinate the process, and help you with the paperwork.
Pennsylvania Expungement Attorney
Having a criminal past can complicate your ability to work as a licensed pharmacist in Pennsylvania—but it doesn't have to completely disrupt your career goals. Your prospects of obtaining a pharmacist's license can be greatly improved by having your convictions sealed or expunged. However, petitioning can be a complex process, and making mistakes in your petition can result in a denial of your request. It is better to have an experienced defense attorney assist you than to try to file for expungement yourself. Many of Joseph D. Lento's clients have taken advantage of Pennsylvania's expungement laws. Do not let your past hinder your future. Learn more about how we can help by contacting the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.