We all make mistakes when we're young. But when your child makes a mistake, it cuts a little more deeply. You may wonder how a criminal record will affect their adult future. Likewise, if you have a juvenile record, you may have already run into issues where the offense came up during job applications, a security clearance, or other awkward situations. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law offers a second chance for those with juvenile offenses through the process of expungement.
What Is Expungement?
An expungement is a court order mandating that state and local courts and law enforcement agencies remove or destroy all court and law enforcement records related to an arrest or conviction. While Pennsylvania law allows juvenile offenders a second chance through expungement, the process is not automatic. An experienced Pennsylvania expungement attorney can help you through the process.
Can I Expunge a Juvenile Offense in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, you can typically expunge some juvenile offenses, including summary offenses, if you meet the following requirements:
- You completed an informal adjustment at least six months ago, and you do not have any pending criminal charges against you.
- You were discharged from supervision after a consent decree or a diversion program at least six months ago, and you don't have any criminal convictions or adjudications.
- You are at least 18, and:
- It's been six months or longer since completing the conditions of a juvenile summary conviction
- You weren't adjudicated delinquent by a court
- You weren't convicted of a subsequent felony or misdemeanor
- You don't have any pending misdemeanor or felony charges
- You don't have any delinquency charges pending against you
- It's been at least five years since the final disposition and referral discharge for your care, you weren't adjudicated delinquent or convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, and you don't have any pending charges against you.
- The district attorney agrees to the expungement after considering:
- The nature and type of your offense
- Your age at conviction, additional criminal history, and education and employment history
- Whether you have any problems with alcohol or drugs
- The consequences to you if the court doesn't grant an expungement
- Whether expunging your record will place the public at risk
What Is the Expungement Process for Juvenile Offenses?
Because the expungement process for juvenile records doesn't happen automatically, you must begin the process by filing a Petition for Expungement in the Juvenile Court in the county where you were convicted. In your petition, your attorney will include:
- Your name and birth date
- Case docket number
- The law enforcement agency that issued the charges
- The police report reference number
- The allegations or charges against you
- The date of your arrest
- The case disposition
- Why the record should be expunged
- The statutory basis for expunging your record
After filing your petition, the court will schedule a hearing with a judge to decide whether to grant your request.
If you file a motion for expungement based only on having turned 18, the court will look at the following factors when deciding whether to grant your expungement:
- The nature and type of your offense
- How old you were, your criminal record, any substance or alcohol abuse issues, and your employment or educational history
- The consequences you may suffer if the court doesn't grant the expungement
- Whether expunging your record might threaten public safety
Can I Expunge Convictions in Adult Court?
Sometimes prosecutors will move offenses that juveniles commit into adult criminal court. Generally, the court will only move a juvenile into adult court if:
- The juvenile is 14 or older, accused of a felony, and the juvenile court finds it's in the public's interest to transfer the case
- The juvenile is 15 or older and was previously adjudicated delinquent for a felony
- The juvenile is 14 or older accused of an offense involving a deadly weapon
- The juvenile is charged with murder or another serious offense
Once convicted in an adult criminal court, a child can't later transfer back to juvenile court. Whenever the court transfers a juvenile to adult court, typically, a juvenile court must find that a prima facie case for the allegations exists.
Expunging Crimes Committed as a Juvenile Convicted in Adult Court
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania doesn't allow expungement of adult crimes committed as a juvenile through the juvenile expungement process. For these crimes, you'll need to meet the expungement requirements for adult crimes and follow the expungement process used in adult courts.
In adult court, expungements in Pennsylvania are not automatic, and the court will only grant a request in limited situations, including:
- The court didn't convict you of a crime, even if you faced charges. This includes not guilty verdicts, withdrawn charges, dismissed charges, and nolle prose dispositions.
- A court convicted you of underage drinking, and you completed your court-ordered sentence and paid your fines.
- A court convicted you of a summary offense, and you've been free from arrest for five years. Summary offenses are minor offenses that are less serious than misdemeanors or felonies.
You may be eligible for a limited access order, similar to sealing your record if you were convicted of a second or third-degree misdemeanor that did not involve violence and you've had no other convictions in the last ten years. In some cases, you may be able to obtain a limited access order after seven years if you were under the age of 25 at the time of your conviction. If you aren't eligible to expunge your record in Pennsylvania, you may be eligible to have your record sealed from public view.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Expungement Attorney
If you or your child are facing limitations because of a juvenile record, the best way to clear your record is to consult a skilled Pennsylvania expungement attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney proficient in helping clients expunge criminal records. He can help. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-536-3686 or contact them online.