Pre-professional schools and programs are a crucial starting point for doctors, lawyers, and other high achievers. Yet even the most driven students and professionals are human. Mistakes and misunderstandings can lead to a criminal history, and your criminal record may:
- Impede your acceptance to a pre-professional program
- Impede your acceptance to graduate school (after completing a pre-professional program)
- Be a concern to professional licensing boards
- Deter prospective employers from hiring you
These are serious consequences that can derail your professional dreams, diminish your earning power, and reduce your satisfaction in life. There may be a remedy to your existing criminal record.
Attorney Joseph Lento and the Lento Law Firm may expunge or seal your record. Either of these steps could significantly restrict access to your criminal record by university admissions boards, licensing bodies, and employers.
Will My Criminal History Affect My Acceptance to a Pre-Professional Program or Graduate School?
We cannot say for certain whether an arrest, conviction, or combination of each will affect your acceptance to a pre-professional program. The same uncertainty applies to your graduate school acceptance.
However, universities and possibly specific programs may reserve the right to check your criminal background. An arrest or conviction could, at least in theory, be the losing edge between you and another applicant.
Can My Criminal History Affect My Job Prospects After Graduation?
Absolutely. Most employers run some level of a background check. Even if you graduate from a well-respected pre-professional program, you may face stiff competition for quality jobs. A criminal background—even an arrest for which you were never convicted—could work against you.
Professional fields such as law, medicine, real estate, and business may have higher standards than non-professional fields. Professional fields often require you to obtain and maintain a license. Licensing boards may judge you negatively for a blemished criminal record.
As one example, the Pennsylvania Bar asks, “... have you ever been arrested, charged, cited, accused, or prosecuted for any crime by a law enforcement agency, or have you ever been the subject of any investigation by a law enforcement agency…?”
If you fail to seal or expunge your criminal record, you may have to answer “yes” to questions like these. Should you be denied jobs or licenses, your criminal record could be a contributing factor.
Can I Remove Arrests and Convictions From My Record?
Expungement and sealing of your record may block graduate school representatives and employers from seeing your past:
Expunging or sealing a record may be a de facto destruction of your criminal history for employment and graduate school purposes. However, they differ in some important ways.
Expungement Versus Sealing: What Is the Difference?
The primary difference between expungement and sealing of your record is one of scope. When a Pennsylvanian or federal court seals your record, it hides it from the general public. However, your sealed criminal record still exists, remaining accessible to law enforcement, certain employers (such as government agencies with a need-to-know directive), and other privileged parties. Most employers, though, may not access a sealed record.
Expungement takes sealing even further. An expunged record is more thoroughly “deleted” than a sealed one. However, law enforcement generally maintains a record of even expunged criminal histories.
An expungement is generally preferable to a sealed record, in the same way that a deep clean is preferable to a light scrub. However, for students anxious about graduate school acceptance and future employment, either option may be welcome.
Are My Past Offenses Eligible for Expungement?
Pa.C.S. § 9122(b) states that “generally,” “Criminal history record information may be expunged when”:
- An arrest occurred but was never prosecuted (18 months must pass from the time of arrest before this determination can be made)
- An individual aged 70 years or older avoids arrest or prosecution for a decade (note that this expungement criterion will rarely apply to pre-professional students)
- An individual has been dead for three years (this also will not apply to pre-professional students but is grounds for expungement nonetheless)
- An individual was convicted of a summary offense and has not been arrested or prosecuted for five years following the conviction
You may also be eligible for expungement if you completed a diversion program for which an outcome is the expungement of the offense. Certain other circumstances may qualify for expungement.
Your attorney will review your case to determine if you are a candidate for expungement.
Are My Past Offenses Eligible To Be Sealed?
Pennsylvania passed the Clean Slate Act in 2018. The law became active in 2019, and the state of Pennsylvania began automatically sealing records of:
- Arrests that did not result in a conviction
- Summary convictions, which are low-level offenses such as disorderly conduct
- Certain second- and third-degree misdemeanors
All of these offenses are generally eligible for sealing. While felonies and serious misdemeanors usually do not qualify for “limited access”—another term for sealing a record—the Clean Slate initiative notes that “Efforts to further expand [Clean Slate eligibility] to felonies are in progress.”
As the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania notes, there may be a significant backlog of records for the state to seal on an automatic basis. Therefore it may be more effective for your attorney to file a petition to enact sealing of your record.
Hiring a Skilled Attorney for Expungement or Sealing of Your Record
Joseph Lento has a firsthand view of Pennsylvania's evolving approach towards criminal justice. As laws like the Clean Slate Act have made it easier to seal criminal records, Lento has taken advantage by helping clients close the chapter on past arrests and convictions.
As an attorney specializing in helping students, clearing the records of pre-professional students is a point of pride. Lento and his team will:
- Review your case
- Determine whether you are eligible for either expungement or sealing of your record
- Complete a petition on your behalf
- Complete the legal process
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. You may also contact us online to start your case.