Expunging a Public Drunkenness Charge in Pennsylvania
Ah, the party years. Many of us may have had a great time partying our way through our early twenties, whether we headed right to college, joined the military, or sought out another job and got straight to work. But if you ended up with an arrest or conviction for public drunkenness, it can have long-term effects on your future that you didn't anticipate. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, you can have minor charges expunged from your record. An expungement is an order by the court directing the removal or destruction of all records related to an arrest, charge, or conviction.
What Can I Expunge in Pennsylvania?
You can typically expunge a conviction that was a summary offense in Pennsylvania if it's been five years and you have remained arrest and prosecution free for five years. You can also expunge charges if you were charged but never prosecuted, charges that were dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by a court, as well as nolle prosse dispositions.
A summary offense is a minor crime, less serious than a misdemeanor or felony. In Pennsylvania, the maximum penalty for a summary offense is 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. Usually, a summary offense only results in a fine, much like a traffic ticket. You can only expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction in Pennsylvania under very limited circumstances. But you may be able to have convictions sealed in some cases.
Public Drunkenness in Pennsylvania
You may be eligible to have a public drunkenness conviction expunged in Pennsylvania if it was a summary offense. The code defines public drunkenness as:
A person is guilty of a summary offense if he appears in any public place manifestly under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, as defined in the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L.233, No.64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, except those taken pursuant to the lawful order of a practitioner, as defined in The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or annoy persons in his vicinity. A person convicted of violating this section may be sentenced to pay a fine of not more than $500 for the first violation and not more than $1,000 for the second and each subsequent violation.
18 Pa. Code § 5505 (2012).
Can I Expunge a Public Drunkenness Charge?
You may be able to expunge a public drunkenness charge if:
- The conviction was a summary offense (which is how public drunkeness is graded as crime), and you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years,
- A court never convicted you of public drunkenness. A non-conviction can include not guilty verdicts, dropped charges, charges dismissed by a court, and nolle prosse dispositions, or
- You completed a diversionary program like the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or a similar program where you finished probation without a public drunkenness conviction.
You can only expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction in limited circumstances, including:
- 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, or
- You received a pardon from the governor.
You may also be able to expunge a public drunkenness charge if the conviction happened while you were a minor and it was a summary offense.
Sealing a Public Drunkenness Charge
If you aren't eligible to expunge a public drunkenness charge for some reason, perhaps because of multiple convictions or an objection from the District Attorney's Office for example, you may be eligible to seal the records instead. As of 2019, Pennsylvania will now automatically seal some records, including:
- Criminal arrests if you weren't convicted,
- Charges where the court or jury found you not guilty,
- Nonviolent criminal convictions that are ten years or older, and
- Misdemeanor offenses punishable by less than two years in prison.
Otherwise, you can apply to have your records sealed if it was a nonviolent offense and you've been free from arrests and criminal charges for ten years. If you're concerned about whether you are eligible for automatic sealing of your records, an experienced Pennsylvania expunction attorney can help.
Juvenile Public Drunkenness Charges
You may be able to have a public drunkenness charge expunged if you were under 18 at the time of your conviction. Pennsylvania law allows the expungement of some juvenile offenses, including summary offenses. You must fall into one of five categories to expunge a juvenile record:
- It has been six months since you completed an informal adjustment, and you do not have any pending criminal actions against you.
- It's been six months since your final discharge from supervision after a consent decree or diversion program, and you have no criminal convictions or adjudications pending against you.
- You are 18 or older, and:
- It has been at least six months since you completed all conditions of a summary conviction committed while you were under 18
- You haven't been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor or adjudicated delinquent and
- You have no pending delinquency, misdemeanor, or felony charges
- You haven't been adjudicated delinquent or convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, and
- You don't have any pending delinquency, felony, or misdemeanor charges against you.
- The type of offense
- Your age, employment history, and criminal activity
- Any alcohol or drug problems you may have
- Adverse consequences if the DA doesn't grant expungement and
- Whether the public is at risk if the court expunges your record
If you also have additional juvenile charges related to your public drunkenness charge, such as minor in possession of alcohol, you should consult a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney experienced in expunctions. In many cases, you can have underage drinking charges expunged once you reach the age of 21 and have completed all court requirements.
Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney Experienced in Expunctions
Avoiding a criminal record is much easier if you consult an experienced criminal defense attorney right after your arrest. But if you now need to expunge or seal records related to a criminal conviction, you should consult an experienced Pennsylvania expunction attorney for guidance. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a skilled criminal defense attorney with a great deal of experience helping clients expunge and seal criminal records. He can help. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686.