If you've been arrested or convicted for fleeing to avoid apprehension, trial, or punishment in Pennsylvania, you may already understand how a criminal record can follow you for years. Even a misdemeanor conviction can affect your career, your ability to obtain a professional license, jobs in law enforcement, or a security clearance. If you're still in school, you could face disciplinary action or be denied admission. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law offers some options for cleaning up a criminal record, including:
- Expungement, which destroys your records through a court order,
- Sealing records automatically with Pennsylvania's “Clean Slate” legislation, or
- Petitioning the court to limit public access to your records with Act 5.
While expungement is the most thorough option, destroying your records rather than simply sealing them, Pennsylvania law doesn't allow many people to expunge misdemeanor or felony convictions. However, if you can't expunge your record, you may be able to automatically seal it under Clean Slate or petition the court to remove your records from public view with Act 5.
Pennsylvania Statute for Flight to Avoid Apprehension, Trial, or Punishment
You can face charges for fleeing to avoid apprehension, trial, or punishment if you “willfully” conceal yourself, move, or travel “within or outside” Pennsylvania “with the intent to avoid apprehension, trial, or punishment.”
18 Pa. Stat. § 5126 (1973). However, the statute doesn't apply if you were “set at liberty by court order” and simply failed to appear at the time and place in the court order. So, missing a court hearing won't result in charges under this statute, but heading to Ohio to avoid prosecution or jail time will.
Pennsylvania Penalties for Flight to Avoid Apprehension, Trial, or Punishment
The grading of the charge you'll face for fleeing to avoid apprehension, trial, or punishment will depend on the grading of the original charge you faced. If you are charged with a felony, the flight to avoid arrest charge will also be a felony. The statute states:
[Fleeing to avoid arrest is a] felony of the third degree when the crime which he has been charged with or has been convicted of is a felony and commits a misdemeanor of the second degree when the crime which he has been charged with or has been convicted of is a misdemeanor.
- Misdemeanor Penalties for Flight to Avoid Apprehension, Trial, or Punishment Fleeing to avoid apprehension, trial, or punishment is a second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania only if the crime you were charged or convicted for was originally a misdemeanor. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to two years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
- Felony Penalties for Flight to Avoid Apprehension, Trial, or Punishment Fleeing to avoid apprehension, trial, or prosecution is a third-degree felony if the charge you were originally facing or were convicted of was a felony. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony is punishable by a fine of $2,500 to $15,000 and up to seven years in prison.
Eligibility for Sealing Criminal Records Through Clean Slate
Pennsylvania's new Clean Slate is the easiest option for sealing your record. Under Clean Slate, the state will automatically seal your records after five to ten years if you meet the qualifications. You may qualify for automatic record sealing if:
- You have a conviction for a second or third-degree misdemeanor or a summary offense,
- The court found you not guilty or dropped the charges, resulting in no conviction on your record, or
- You have a misdemeanor charge punishable by no more than two years in prison.
If you have a second-degree misdemeanor conviction for fleeing to avoid apprehension, trial, or punishment, you may qualify to seal your record with Clean Slate automatically. However, it may also depend on the underlying offense or conviction that you were fleeing. To determine your best option, you should seek the advice of an experienced Pennsylvania sealing attorney.
Eligibility for Sealing Your Record With an Act 5 Petition
If you aren't eligible to automatically seal your record under Clean Slate, you may be able to use an Act 5 petition. Act 5 sealing doesn't happen automatically. Instead, you'll have to petition the court to limit public access to your records once you qualify. While this process can be a bit more cumbersome, an experienced sealing attorney can help, and an Act 5 petition will allow you to seal a wider range of criminal convictions.
You may qualify to petition for Act 5 sealing if:
- It's been at least ten years since you completed your sentence and paid any court-ordered restitution,
- You have an ungraded offense or a misdemeanor conviction punishable by no more than five years in prison, and
- You don't have any other arrests or prosecutions for crimes punishable by a year or more in prison.
If you have a third-degree felony conviction after fleeing to avoid apprehension, trial, or punishment, you will not be able to seal your record using Clean Slate or Act 5. Pennsylvania law doesn't permit the sealing of felony convictions. However, you may be able to expunge your record under very limited circumstances. An experienced Pennsylvania expungement and sealing attorney can discuss your best options.
Hire a Skilled Pennsylvania Sealing and Expungement Attorney
If you have a conviction for fleeing to avoid apprehension, trial, or punishment, and another underlying conviction, figuring out your options to clean up your criminal record can be challenging. But this isn't something you should try to figure out on your own. An experienced Pennsylvania sealing and expungement attorney can guide you through your options and help you fix your record with the most efficient choice.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping Pennsylvanians like you for years. Find out how they can help. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.