Philadelphia County is the most populous county within the state of Pennsylvania. The city of Philadelphia encompasses all of the county, and also serves as the county seat. Philadelphia has over 1.5 million residents, and shares close proximity to the states of New Jersey and Delaware. The county and city are served in all legal matters by the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, which is located in the heart of the city.
Philadelphia County Expungements
When a person seeks to obtain an expungement in Philadelphia, they must first meet the greater requirements set by the state of Pennsylvania. The state sets forth several requirements that a person much meet in order to have their record expunged. A person may expunge a record if:
- They are at least 70 years of age and have not faced criminal charges for at least ten (10) years time.
- They have been convicted on a summary offense, and at least five (5) years have passed without additional criminal matters.
- They have completed an Accelerative Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, and are not currently facing any criminal matters.
- If a person went to trial, either in Philadelphia Municipal Court or the Court of Common Pleas, and was found not guilty of a charge or charges, such criminal charges will be eligible to be expunged.
- If a person was arrested, but the criminal charges were, for example, dismissed by the Philadelphia County Court, or withdrawn by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, these charges may be eligible for expungement; the appropriate form of relief for charges that were dismissed or withdrawn in some instances may be a "partial" expungement, also known as a "redaction."
Philadelphia County Record Sealing
Pennsylvania also offers a separate process from standard expungements for individuals who have records and convictions of more serious crimes. This process is done using the state's "Limited Access" laws and is commonly referred to as sealing one's records. The process allows for most misdemeanor offenses to be sealed, with certain exceptions. In order to be eligible for this process, a person must have fulfilled any sentencing associated with the crime, and have allowed at least ten (10) years time to pass without additional criminal charges. A person's 2nd degree, 3rd degree, and ungraded misdemeanor level offenses may be eligible for this process.
Philadelphia County Juvenile Expungements
When a person faces criminal charges before they turn 18, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office will most likely file these charges as juvenile charges. While the state is typically more lenient when it comes to the expungement of these records, it is important to remember that these records are not automatically expunged on a person's 18th birthday. This is a common belief, however, it is entirely untrue. A person must go through an expungement process for their juvenile records just as they would for their adult records. If a person wishes to expunge their juvenile records in Philadelphia County, there is a separate process and different requirements for juvenile expungement. These requirements include:
- A person was convicted of a juvenile delinquency, has fulfilled their sentence, and has not faced additional charges for at least five (5) years.
- A person was arrested on a juvenile charge, the charge was dismissed, and they are currently not facing any criminal charges.
- A person was placed under court supervision, has completed the period of supervision, and at least six (6) months have passed without additional criminal charges.
- A person is over the age of 18 and has convinced the court to grant an expungement through their argument.
Clearing Your Criminal Record in Philadelphia
Pennsylvania Expungement Process in Philadelphia
When expunging or sealing an adult criminal record in Philadelphia, the Criminal Division of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is where the matter will be addressed. The Court of Common Pleas - Criminal Division is housed in the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice; commonly known as the "CJC." The CJC is located at 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
When expunging a juvenile record in Philadelphia, the Juvenile Branch of the Family Division of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is where the matter will be addressed. This court is more commonly known as "Philadelphia Family Court," and is located at 1501 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102.
Whether seeking relief regarding an adult or juvenile record, the person seeking the expungement or criminal record sealing in Philadelphia will be the "petitioner" in the case, and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office will be the "respondent." The District Attorney's Office is located at 3 S. Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
The process for an expungement or criminal record sealing in Philadelphia will proceed without issue in most instances if the Philadelphia 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 Philadelphia, PA, will depend on the specifics of the Philadelphia 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 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 Philadelphia as comprehensively as possible.
In Philadelphia, depending on the case, one or two hearings may be required for an adult expungement or record sealing to be fully addressed. The first hearing will always take place in courtroom 1004 of the Criminal Justice Center, and the second hearing, only if necessary, will always take place in courtroom 805. When requesting either expungement or record sealing, if it is objected to by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, a hearing will take place in front of a judge where an oral argument will be required. This hearing will take place in courtroom 805 of the Criminal Justice Center Unlike most Pennsylvania counties, however, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas will schedule a hearing to finalize the expungement or criminal record sealing even if the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office does not object to the request for relief. For a hearing where there is no objection to the expungement or the record sealing itself, the petitioner's presence can be "waived," and the petitioner's attorney can address the matter at the scheduled hearing if there is no objection to the "waiver" from the Philadelphia Court and the District Attorney's Office. This hearing will take place in courtroom 1105 of the Criminal Justice Center.
One hearing will generally be required for a juvenile expungement. The specific courtroom of Philadelphia Family Court will be determined at the time of filing.
Despite the need for a hearing in Philadelphia, because the Court of Common Pleas 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. It is important to note that when expunging an ARD case in Philadelphia, a copy of the ARD "completion" letter from the Philadelphia Probation Department is required to submitted as part of the pleading. If the ARD "completion" letter is not included, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office will object to the expungement of the ARD case. In addition, the Philadelphia County Clerk of Courts requires one (1) original pleading. Although it may not be required, it is good practice to file a copy of the pleadings. Unlike many Pennsylvania counties, the Philadelphia Clerk of Courts can assist with serving the pleadings upon the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
Finding the Best Attorney for Philadelphia Expungement | Attorney for Philadelphia Record Sealing
Expungement and sealing records are crucial for individuals who wish to better their employment prospects, enter into higher education, and even to obtain a professional license. While a person may be able to file these motions on their own, the courts are unlikely to provide adequate guidance on how to do so. Errors in the process can be costly in terms of both time and funds, as they may require a petitioner to start from the beginning or to re-file. This can be incredibly frustrating. For these reasons, a person may find it helpful to consult with an attorney when attempting a filing.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a proven record of success helping clients with clearing their records in Philadelphia and 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 and expungement or record sealing filing in Philadelphia County, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.