Philadelphia Assault Case Successully Resolved and Expunged for Out-of-State Resident and First-Time Offender
I.S., an out-of-state resident who lived in New Jersey, contacted me regarding serious criminal charges that unfortunately occurred while she was visiting Philadelphia. I.S. had been charged with the following criminal offenses:
- Simple Assault - 18 § 2701 §§ A
- Recklessly Endangering Another Person - 18 § 2705
- Resisting Arrest - 18 § 5104
- Conspiracy - 18 § 903
- Disorderly Conduct - 18 § 5503 §§ A1
I.S.'s charges were serious and she was concerned not only with what kinds of consequences she would face if her case did not work out in her favor, but she was also concerned about the implication that her criminal charges could have on her career goals.
Are there "diversion" programs for first-time offenders in Philadelphia?
Although I.S. was a first-time offender in Philadelphia, there was no question that I.S.'s specific criminal charges (Simple Assault in particular) would generally be a bar to her being considered for certain "diversion" programs offered to defendants with no criminal record by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the Philadelphia Court System. An exception was made in I.S.'s case, and despite the general rule that criminal cases involving any kind of assault or assaultive behavior, I.S. was fortunate to have been able to have the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office agree to allow her to resolve her case through the Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion program, also known as "ARD."
What is ARD?
ARD is a program that, if accepted, allows a defendant to resolve his or her case in a more agreeable manner than if the case went to trial (where there is the prospect of being found guilty or not guilty) or if the case was resolved through non-trial disposition (a guilty plea for example). ARD allows a defendant a "guaranteed" outcome and also affords a defendant the opportunity to avoid any possibility of a criminal conviction if the defendant successfully completes the ARD program.
What kinds of conditions will be required if I am admitted into the ARD program?
Specific conditions, imposed by the District Attorney's Office and ordered by the Court, will be required to be completed by the defendant; such conditions may include fines and costs (reduced in some instances), community service, restitution to paid to the victim(s) of the crime, and in DUI cases for example, alcohol highway safety school, the completion of a "CRN" evaluation (Court Reporting Network) and a drug and alcohol assessment, and dependency treatment if deemed necessary.
How long will ARD last?
In I.S.'s case, she was required to pay fines and costs as part of her acceptance into Philadelphia's ARD program, and as with all defendants admitted to Accelerated Rehabilitative Diversion, I.S. had to remain arrest-free until the specified term of her ARD program ended (generally 6 months to 2 years depending on the nature of the case and the length of time it will take a defendant to complete any specific conditions of his or her ARD program).
Can I seek an expungement after completing ARD?
After I.S. had completed her ARD, we petitioned the Philadelphia Court for an expungement of her criminal arrest and the criminal charges. It should be noted that many people do not realize that despite the major benefits of resolving a case through ARD (avoiding a criminal conviction in particular), the arrest itself and the criminal charges will remain on a person's Pennsylvania criminal record unless the person takes the affirmative step to seek to have those records expunged. After I prepared the necessary pleadings and filed them with the Philadelphia Court on I.S.'s behalf, per procedural requirements, I served a copy of the pleadings on the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
In an effort to make certain that the expungement proceeded as smoothly as possible, I contacted a personal colleague at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office on I.S.'s behalf to seek their consent regarding our request that I.S.'s criminal record be expunged. Despite the fact that a District Attorney's Office can object even if a person is otherwise eligible, I did not anticipate an objection from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, and that was in fact the case - There would be no objection and at the time of I.S.'s expungement hearing in courtroom 1104 of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, the expungement should be granted without issue.
Do I have to appear for an expungement hearing in Philadelphia?
Because I.S. lived in New Jersey, in advance of I.S.'s scheduled expungement hearing, I made arrangements with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the Philadelphia Court for me to appear on her behalf at the expungement hearing.
If the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office were to object, a defendant generally would have to appear at a "contested" expungement hearing in Philadelphia. A "contested" hearing takes place in courtroom 805 of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center (not in courtroom 1104 which is presided over by a "Trial Commissioner").
At such a proceeding, testimony, evidence, and argument has to be presented to demonstrate to the Court why the expungement should be granted. The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office would present the same to try to demonstrate to the Court why the expungement should be denied.
A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge, rather than a Trial Commissioner, will preside over a contested expungement hearing in Philadelphia. Depending on a defendant's circumstances, for example, if the defendant lives in another state that is far away, arrangements may be able to be made for the defendant to appear by phone, but appearing in person will generally always be preferred if at all possible.
Because there was no objection from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, I appeared on I.S.'s behalf at the hearing in courtroom 1104; as anticipated, based on efforts taken on I.S.'s behalf in advance of the hearing itself, the expungement was granted. In Philadelphia, the assigned Judge will sign the expungement order several days after the hearing, and once signed, the expungement order will be forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Police and the Philadelphia Police Department for the person's criminal record to be expunged per Pennsylvania law.
How long will it take for my criminal record to be expunged in Philadelphia?
A person seeking an expungement in Philadelphia should note that the Pennsylvania State Police will generally clear a person's criminal records in a more timely manner than the Philadelphia Police Department. It generally will take the Pennsylvania State Police approximately two weeks after receiving the official expungement order to do so. In contrast, it can take the Philadelphia Police Department several months to clear a person's criminal records after receiving the official expungment order.
Can the clearing of my criminal record be expedited after an expungement is granted in Philadelphia?
An effective attorney can, in some instances, expedite this process if the person seeking the expungement has extenuating circumstances that can be documented to the applicable law enforcement agencies and authorities; for example, a request to expedite the clearing of a person's criminal records in Pennsylvania could reasonably be based upon (in no particular order): 1) a person is starting a new job; 2) a person's present employer is conducting a background check; 3) a person is starting college, graduate school, or a medical residency or similar program; or 4) a person is joining the military.
Attorney for First-Time Offender in Philadelphia
Joseph D. Lento understands the potential consequences that criminal charges can have for a first-time offender. These consequences can be compounded for professionals, college students, people who maintain professional licenses such as doctors, nurses, accountants, and so forth. Getting criminal charges resolved in the most favorable manner possible is critical to allowing a defendant to be able to move forward without long-term consequences.
Practice area(s): Criminal Defense