How do I Expunge a Charge for Stealing a Library Book in Pennsylvania?
As kids, we've all explored the wonders of our local libraries. Through books, movies, magazines, and more, we learned more about the world around us. But most of us have also lost a library book along the way or failed to return it after a late notice. While most of us already know that taking materials from the library without properly checking it out is a crime, that's not the only way to steal a library book. Did you know that failing to return a library book after receiving a notice from the library to return it?
Fortunately, legislators in Pennsylvania understand that everyone makes mistakes. Therefore, you can often expunge minor or summary offenses from your criminal record. An expungement is a court order directing the destruction or removal of administrative or court records related to an arrest, charge, or conviction.
What Can I Expunge in Pennsylvania?
You can typically expunge summary offenses from your record in Pennsylvania if you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years. A summary offense is a minor offense akin to a traffic violation or an ordinance violation. A summary offense is less serious than a misdemeanor or a felony, with penalties limited to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500.
You may also expunge charges for which you don't have a conviction, such as dropped charges, dismissed charges, not guilty verdicts, and nolle prosse dispositions. You typically can't expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction except in very rare circumstances. You may, however, be eligible to have misdemeanor charges sealed.
Stealing a Library Book in Pennsylvania
You may be eligible to have a conviction for stealing a library book expunged in Pennsylvania if it was a summary offense. Whether stealing or keeping a library book is a summary offense, a misdemeanor, or a felony depends on whether you checked it out, the property's value, and whether it is your first offense. Two Pennsylvania code provisions are cover the theft of library property. One is literally called "library theft."
Library Theft. A person is guilty of library theft if he willfully conceals on his person or among his belongings any library or museum material while still on the premises of a library or willfully and without authority removes any library or museum material from a library with the intention of converting such material to his own use.
18 Pa. Code § 3929.1 (2004). Library theft is a summary offense if the library property is worth less than $150 and it is a first offense. The grading increases with the value of the property and subsequent offenses.
- Summary Offense: First offense and property valued at less than $150,
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor: Second offense and property valued at less than $150,
- First-Degree Misdemeanor: First or second offense with property valued at $150 or more,
- Third-Degree Felony: Third or subsequent offense regardless of the value of the property.
Retention of Library Property
The second statute involving library books is called "retention of library property after notice to return." The code states:
(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a summary offense if he retains any book, pamphlet, magazine, newspaper, manuscript, map or other property belonging in, or to, or on deposit with, any library open to the public or any part thereof, for a period exceeding 30 days after such library has given written notice to return the same.
(b) Disposition of fine.--Any fine imposed under this section shall be paid over by the magistrate imposing such fine to the library instituting the prosecution, and costs of prosecution.
(c) Form of notice.--Such notice may be given by personal service upon the borrower, or by the mailing of a registered or certified letter to the address of the borrower on file with said library. The notice shall recite this section, and shall contain a demand that the property be returned.
18 Pa. Code § 6708. Retention of library property is a summary offense.
Can I Expunge a Charge for Stealing or Keeping a Library Book?
You may be able to expunge a charge for library theft or retaining library property if:
- Your conviction was a summary offense related to retaining or stealing library property, and you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years,
- You were charged but never convicted of a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony library theft, including not guilty verdicts, charges that were withdrawn or dismissed, or nolle prose dispositions, or
- You went through a diversionary program like Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or another alternative adjudication where you completed probation or community service without conviction.
You cannot expunge a misdemeanor or felony library theft conviction 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 the crime expunged. You may be able to apply to have those records sealed or request a pardon.
Juvenile Charges for Stealing or Retaining a Library Book
If you have a conviction for library theft or retaining library property and you were under 18 at the time, you may be able to expunge the crime if it was a summary offense or you meet one of the other qualifications for juvenile record expungements. You should consult an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney familiar with juvenile expunctions.
Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney Experienced in Expunctions
If you're facing a charge for library theft or retaining library property, you shouldn't assume that having this criminal conviction on your records is inconsequential. But if you have a criminal record that you need to expunge or seal, the best way to protect your personal and professional future and reputation is to consult an experienced Pennsylvania expunction attorney.
We all make mistakes. Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands this. He is an experienced criminal defense attorney well versed in helping clients expunge criminal records, including juvenile criminal records. He can help. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686.