Lehigh County is located in southeastern Pennsylvania. The county supports a population of over 360,000 residents within its townships. The county is served in all matters of law by the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. The court itself is located in Allentown, PA. The court is responsible for resolving legal disputes within the county, as well as maintaining records for the county. If a person wishes to expunge or seal any prior records, they must petition this court in order to do so.
Expungement in Lehigh County
When a person petitions the court for an expungement in Lehigh County, they must first examine whether or not they are eligible under Pennsylvania's guidelines for expungement. The state provides narrow circumstances under which a person may qualify to have their records expunged. These requirements include:
- If a person was arrested, but the criminal charges were, for example, dismissed by the Lehigh County Court, or withdrawn by the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office, these charges may be eligible for expungement; the appropriate form of relief for charges that were dismissed or withdrawn may be a "partial" expungement, also known as a "redaction," depending on the circumstances of the case.
- A person that is over the age of 70 and has not faced any criminal charges for the past ten (10) years will be eligible for an expungement.
- A person that was convicted on a summary offense may be eligible for an expungement after they have both completed their sentence and fulfilled a five (5) year period of time without additional criminal offenses.
- A person that was able to participate in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program will be eligible for an expungement once they have completed the program.
Record Sealing in Lehigh County
Lehigh County also allows for more serious records to be sealed under Pennsylvania's "Limited Access" laws. These laws prevent a person's records from being accessed during a standard background check, effectively sealing them. While these laws allow for more serious records to be sealed, only 2nd degree, 3rd degree, and ungraded misdemeanor convictions may be sealed. In order to be eligible for sealing one's records, a person must have also fulfilled a ten (10) year waiting period without having any additional criminal proceedings against them. Many otherwise-eligible misdemeanor convictions can be sealed under Pennsylvania's Limited Access law, but there are certain limited exceptions.
Juvenile Expungements in Lehigh County
When a person accrues a criminal or arrest record prior to their 18th birthday and legal adulthood, the record will often be classified as a juvenile record. Although Pennsylvania allows more leniency on juvenile records, it is important to realize that these records can still interfere with a person's career and education goals if they are not expunged. Juvenile records do not disappear once a person turns 18. A person may expunge their record under the following conditions:
- A person was arrested on juvenile charges, but the charges were later dropped or withdrawn.
- A person was placed under court supervision, the supervisory period has been fulfilled, and six (6) months have passed since that time without any additional criminal proceedings.
- A person was convicted on juvenile charges, they have completed their assigned sentencing, and at least five (5) years have passed since that time without additional criminal proceedings.
- A person petitions the court for an expungement of their record following their 18th birthday, and the court approves of their petition.
Clearing Your Criminal Record in Allentown, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Expungement Process in Allentown
When expunging a criminal record in Lehigh County, whether as an adult, juvenile, or after ARD is complete or sealing a criminal record in Lehigh County, the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas will be where the matter is addressed. The Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas is located at 455 Hamilton St, Allentown, PA 18101.
The person seeking the expungement or criminal record sealing in Lehigh County will be the "petitioner" in the case, and the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office will be the "respondent." The Lehigh County District Attorney's Office is located in the Lehigh County Courthouse; the address, as above, is 455 Hamilton St, Allentown, PA 18101.
The process for an expungement or criminal record sealing in Lehigh County will proceed without issue in most instances if the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office does not object to the expungement petition or limited access petition pursuant to Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. The specific Pennsylvania expungement or limited access law which will apply to the request for relief filed in Allentown, PA, will depend on the specifics of the Lehigh County criminal case itself: either Pa.R.Crim.P. 490 for summary offense expungements; Pa.R.Crim.P. 790 for standard criminal record expungements; Pa.R.Crim.P. 791 and 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122.1 in cases involving criminal record sealing; or 18 Pa.C.S. § 9123 in cases involving juvenile records. In some instances, requesting relief based upon a combination of these Rules is sometimes required to clear a Pennsylvania criminal record in Lehigh County as comprehensively as possible.
Because the Lehigh County Court will most often decide a request for an expungement or record sealing "on the pleadings," meaning that judgment will be made on a proper petition, order, and related pleadings, persons seeking to clear their record per Pennsylvania law must make sure that their request is properly handled in all respects, and to an exacting degree. In addition, the Lehigh County Clerk of Courts requires one (1) original pleading unlike most Pennsylvania counties. Although the Clerk of Courts will serve the District Attorney's Office, it is good practice in Lehigh County for the petitioning party to also serve the District Attorney's Office.
Finding the Best Attorney for Lehigh County Expungement | Attorney for Lehigh County Record Sealing
Sealing prior records and obtaining expungements are important motions for anyone seeking to avoid employment issues, enter higher education, or maintain or apply for a professional license. Courts will seldom provide adequate direction for a person applying for an expungement or record sealing, however. If a person makes any missteps or mistakes in their filing, they will be met with delays in the process. This can be frustrating when time is of the essence. For this reason, it may be best to have these motions filed by an experienced attorney to reduce any potential for delays.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a proven record of success helping clients with clearing their records throughout Pennsylvania, and as importantly, he personally handles all clients' expungements and record sealings from start to finish. If you or a loved one is seeking an expungement or record sealing motion in Allentown or Lehigh County, PA, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.