Getting arrested for drug possession or other drug-related crimes can have a negative effect on many different areas of your life. You may have to report your drug conviction in applications for jobs or housing, or your conviction may prevent you from qualifying for student loans. If it has been years since your arrest and you are tired of past convictions affecting your present life, you might be able to expunge your record.
What Is Expungement?
In Pennsylvania, there are three main ways to hide your criminal record from the public view: expungement, record sealing, and pardons. Expungement means that a person's criminal record is destroyed entirely. Employers, the court system, and even the police cannot find information about an expunged record. It is as if the arrest and conviction never existed in the first place.
In contrast, you might apply to have your criminal record sealed. A “sealed” record can still be viewed by the police, the court system, and certain types of employers, but it is generally not viewable to the public. A person whose criminal record has been sealed or expunged no longer has to report the arrest or conviction on job applications, housing applications, and similar forms.
A pardon is granted by the governor, who has the ability to forgive a person's crimes and make it so that legally the conviction never existed. Both pardons and expungements restore a person's civil rights that they may have lost after a felony conviction—for example, the right to own a firearm or serve on a jury.
How Do I Get An Expungement?
The process of getting an expungement involves filing a petition in the county where the crime took place. As part of the petition, you must prove that you meet one of the very limited bases for an expungement. In Pennsylvania, you will only qualify for expungement if:
- You were arrested, but your criminal charges were dropped or dismissed before trial;
- You are a first-time offender and successfully completed an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program;
- You were arrested for underage drinking, completed your court-ordered requirements, and have reached the age of 21;
- You committed a low-level offense that is usually only punished with a fine, and it has been at least five years since your conviction;
- You are over the age of 70, and it has been at least ten years since your conviction; or
- You want to have your relative's criminal conviction expunged posthumously, and it has been at least three years since they passed away.
If you do not meet any of these conditions, it may be difficult to successfully obtain an expungement. However, you may still be able to apply for a pardon or apply to have your record sealed, depending on your circumstances.
Get Help With Drug Crime Expungement Today
A criminal record expungement can help you move on from darker times in the past. At the Lento Law Firm, criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team of legal professionals can help you decide the best course of action for your future. Contact our office today by calling 888.535.3686 and learn more about whether expungement is an option for you.