When a person has a criminal record, it can preclude them from entry into certain jobs, educational opportunities, and even housing. A criminal record is a hindrance to a person's quality of life. One of the terms a person may hear is "expungement." Expungement is a form of relief for those who have faced criminal charges in the past to clear their name within the state.
What Is Expungement?
Expungement is a legal motion filed with the County Court of Common Pleas where the initial arrest or charges were made. This filing is done at the courthouse and carries its own fees associated with the motion. Expungement is possible for both juvenile and adult records, however, a person must meet the state's eligibility requirements in order to expunge their records. There are different requirements for both adults and juveniles. Furthermore, each jurisdiction in Pennsylvania may have separate processes, filing methods, and fees associated with the expungement motion. On rare occasions, the court may wish for a person to defend their motion in court.
How Does Expungement Affect My Pennsylvania Criminal Records?
Expungement functions by cleansing a person's records of the associated records. After a successful expungement motion, a person's records are left effectively clear of any incident for a majority of background checks. The exception to these cases is any background check for positions in agencies such as the FBI or other position of higher authority. These positions, by their nature, require a delve that goes a bit further into a person's background, so they may have access to person's expunged records.
Is Expungement the Same as Sealing My Records?
Expungement is one of many ways that a person may clear their name within the state of Pennsylvania. The method a person should use for clearing their name depends heavily on their situation. Pennsylvania has another method for clearing a person's name known as record sealing, which makes use of the state's "limited access" laws. Instead of expunging or clearing the records, a person who has their records sealed will still have records in a county, but background checking agencies will be prevented from accessing these records.
Expungement is commonly used for lower leveled offenses such as summary offenses, or incidents when a person is able to participate in an ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) program. Record Sealing is a newer process that allows a person to seal away records of more serious offenses, such as 2nd and 3rd-degree misdemeanor convictions.
Do I Need an Attorney for My Expungement?
Some individuals may be capable of conducting the filing for an expungement on their own, however, the process can be complex and frustrating for most. Any errors in a filing can delay a person's path to moving on with their life. For this reason, it can be much more beneficial to consult with an attorney for these filings.