Expunging a Disorderly Conduct Charge in Pennsylvania
When you're facing a charge for disorderly conduct in Pennsylvania, you may be solely focused on ensuring you don't go to jail. While avoiding jail is a valid concern, you should also look at the long-term repercussions of a criminal conviction on your record. Even a so-called "minor" offense can impact your future career opportunities, educational opportunities, loans, financial aid, and your ability to rent or buy a home. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, we have some pathways to clear criminal convictions, including expungement. An expungement is a Pennsylvania court's order to destroy all administrative and court records related to an arrest or conviction in the state.
What Can I Expunge in Pennsylvania?
You can expunge minor offenses known as a summary offense if you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years. In Pennsylvania, a summary offense is less serious than a misdemeanor or a felony. These offenses are often referred to as non-traffic code violations as well. The maximum penalty for a summary offense is 90 days in jail and up to a $1,500 fine. However, usually, the punishment is just a fine.
You can also expunge crimes for which you were arrested or charged but never convicted, including charges the police dropped and charges dismissed by the prosecutor or a court. These expungable charges include not guilty verdicts and nolle prossed dispositions. You can't expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction except in very limited circumstances, but you may be eligible to have those crimes sealed.
Disorderly Conduct in Pennsylvania
You might be eligible to have a disorderly conduct conviction expunged in Pennsylvania if it was a summary offense. Whether a disorderly conduct charge is a misdemeanor or summary offense depends on the intent of the accused. The Pennsylvania Code defines disorderly conduct:
A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(1) engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior;
(2) makes unreasonable noise;
(3) uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
(4) creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.
18 Pa. Code § 5503. Disorderly conduct is a third-degree misdemeanor if "the intent of the actor is to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if he persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist." Otherwise, it is a summary offense.
Can I Expunge a Disorderly Conduct Charge?
You can expunge a disorderly conduct charge if:
- Your disorderly conduct conviction was a summary offense, and you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years,
- You were charged but never convicted of a summary offense or misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, including not guilty verdicts, charges that were withdrawn or dismissed, or nolle prossed dispositions, or
- You completed a diversionary program for your disorderly conduct charge, where you finished probation without a conviction.
You cannot expunge misdemeanor disorderly conduct convictions unless:
- You are at least 70 years old, and ten years have passed since the criminal proceedings, or
- The subject of the criminal record has been dead for at least three years.
If you don't meet one of the criteria above, you probably can't have your disorderly conduct crime expunged. You may be able to have those records sealed or request a pardon from the state. In some cases, the state will automatically seal records with no conviction or nonviolent misdemeanor convictions.
Juvenile Disorderly Conduct Charges
If you were convicted of disorderly conduct as a minor, you might be eligible to expunge the conviction if it was a summary offense. There are several situations allowing expungement of a juvenile disorderly conduct charge, including:
- If you are now 18, at least six months have passed since you completed your disposition, and you haven't been charged or convicted of any other misdemeanor or felony since that time.
- If it has been five years since you completed your sentence or disposition, and you haven't faced any additional misdemeanor or felony charges during that time.
There are some other situations where you may be able to expunge a juvenile disorderly conduct conviction. A Pennsylvania attorney experienced in expunctions can advise you.
Sealing a Disorderly Conduct Charge
If you aren't eligible to have a third-degree misdemeanor conviction expunged, you may be able to have the records sealed if you:
- Have a second or third-degree misdemeanor conviction,
- Haven't been arrested in at least ten years,
- Never been convicted of a felony, a first-degree misdemeanor, or a second-degree simple assault,
- Have fewer than four misdemeanor convictions, and
- Have paid all fines and costs associated with your cases.
Under Pennsylvania's Clean Slate Act of 2018, the state will now automatically seal records for:
- Criminal arrests if you were never convicted
- Charges where the court or jury found you not guilty
- Nonviolent criminal convictions that are ten years or older
- Misdemeanor offenses that involved fewer than two years in prison
While sealing does not remove or destroy records like an expungement, routine employment and landlord background checks will not contain these criminal records, and you will not be legally required to disclose them. However, law enforcement agencies, employers that must consider criminal background under federal law, and those that use FBI background checks will still see these sealed criminal records.
Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney Experienced in Expunctions
The best way to avoid having to expunge a criminal conviction is to mount a strong defense to the original charge and avoiding conviction. If you're facing a disorderly conduct charge, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to help. But, if you have a disorderly conduct charge or conviction you need to expunge or seal, you need the advice of a Pennsylvania expungement attorney with a background in criminal defense.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney proficient in helping clients expunge criminal records. He can help you clear your record too. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686.