What Business Owners Need to Know About Expungement in Pennsylvania
There are numerous circumstances during the course of your life when you may be asked to submit information for a criminal background check. In Pennsylvania, you need to submit to a background check to receive your Pennsylvania law license, nursing license, mortgage lending license, and so forth. In addition to submitting to criminal background checks when you're seeking employment, you may also discover that you'll have to disclose your criminal history if you plan to operate a business.
In Pennsylvania, a criminal background check that reveals you've been charged with or convicted of a crime that substantially relates to the type of business or industry you need a license to operate in can be a bar to licensure. It's also important to note that because Pennsylvania maintains public records of its court dockets, potential clients or business partners can easily look up your criminal records even in instances where you were never convicted of a crime. Unfortunately, even in cases where charges were dropped because there wasn't sufficient evidence to prosecute, the criminal record of your arrest will remain public. This unfair consequence of the penal system can affect you long after the charges against you have been dropped.
Fortunately, there is a road to success in Pennsylvania for many individuals who'd like to move on from their past despite their criminal record. Many criminal records can be expunged, allowing for you to move forward as a successful and productive a business owner.
The Expungement Process in Pennsylvania
Expungement in Pennsylvania means that documentation relating to your criminal record within the state will be removed, and will no longer appear in a search when a licensing board or other party runs a criminal background check on you. It will also be removed from public court records.
Pennsylvania law defines “Expunge” as follows:
- The removal of information so that there is no trace or indication that the information existed;
- The elimination of all identifiers which could be used to trace the individual except for statistical purposes; and
- The maintaining of certain information required or authorized under Section 9122(c) when the individual has successfully completed pretrial or post-trial diversion and probation conditions.
If you were convicted of a crime, expungement doesn't mean that the offenses have been forgiven. It does mean that generally, you're not required by law to disclose the offenses once they've been expunged.
Individuals who've been convicted of certain nonviolent crimes or drug crimes can, in many cases, move to have their criminal record expunged. It's important to understand, though, that the process can be tedious and requires you to file a petition with the court that has jurisdiction over your criminal record. This may mean that you need to file the petition with multiple courts if your criminal record spans multiple jurisdictions.
The steps to expunging your criminal record in Pennsylvania include:
- Speaking with an attorney to determine your expungement eligibility
- Preparing and filing the Petition for Expungement
- Attending any hearings required by the court
The expungement process requires a great deal of patience. The judge may approve your Petition for Expungement or require you to present additional evidence demonstrating why the petition should be approved. Even once the judge issues an Expungement Order, it may take a considerable amount of time for the applicable agencies to remove the information from your record. Agencies such as the local police, state police, District Attorneys' offices, and administrative offices of the applicable courts will only begin the process of expunging your record once they receive the formal notice from the Court Clerk.
If you're wondering whether all of this red tape is worth it, you should consider all that you may have to give up if you choose to live with your criminal record. A bar to a professional license or a business venture, such as an old criminal record, will severely limit your income potential for the duration of your life. A skilled attorney will help you navigate the process efficiently and will guide your understanding of the timeline to ensure the expungement process doesn't get hung up in the red tape.
Expungement Eligibility for Business Owners
If you're considering expunging your records so that you can move forward with your business operations, you first need to know if your record is eligible for expungement.
If your criminal charges never resulted in arrest, or if you weren't found guilty of the charges, then you should pursue expungement of your criminal record in Pennsylvania. If you were convicted of a summary offense for a minor crime, then you're generally eligible for expungement if at least five years have passed since your conviction and you haven't been subsequently charged or arrested for any other criminal act. Defendants who disposed of their charges via the Accelerated Rehabilative Diversion program, commonly known as "ARD", will have avoided a conviction by way of their successful completion of ARD, and will also generally be eligible for expungement immediately or shortly after their ARD supervision comes to an end.
The expungement process is a tool designed to help individuals who want a fresh start in life, despite their criminal history. Expungement helps people move forward and find success in their own business ventures. Notably, the landscape of record relief rules in Pennsylvania is always changing, and, for example, the recently implemented “Clean Slate” statute gives added record relief availability to those who've committed no crimes within the last 10 years. Although such relief would not be an expungement, a record sealing can potentially help if a person may not be eligible for an expungement, bearing in mind certain limitations compared to an expungement. One such limitation is that that sealed records can still be accessed upon request by certain government and law enforcement agencies, including state licensing authorities.
While the Clean Slate rule is a step in the right direction, it still requires individuals to wait a long period before their records are automatically sealed and sealing may in fact not offer fundamental relief depending on an individual's circumstances. If you're ready to move out from under the dark cloud of your criminal record now, rather than wait, then the Clean Slate rule may not be right for you. In such an instance, a pardon may in fact be the most appropriate form of relief available to a person convicted of an offense not eligible for an expungement within a reasonable period of time.
Talk to an Experienced PA Expungement Attorney
Expungement laws and record relief in Pennsylvania laws can be complicated, to begin with, and are always shifting with policy changes. You will undoubtedly find more success if you pursue expungement with the guidance of an experienced Pennsylvania expungement attorney. Joseph D. Lento understands that hardworking individuals deserve a second chance to pursue their dreams. The Lento Law Firm has helped countless people regain control over their futures through expungement petitions, and to learn how he can help you, call 888-535-3686 today.