Mistakes from the past can have lasting effects on your future, particularly if those mistakes involve an arrest or criminal conviction on your record. A criminal record can stop you from getting a job, obtaining professional licenses and certifications, getting student loans and grants, and adopting a child.
By clearing your record, you can make sure that your past doesn't continue to impact your future negatively. To that end, this Philadelphia Inquirer article provides critical answers to some key questions about clearing your record in Pennsylvania.
What is the difference between getting your record sealed, expunged, or pardoned?
An expungement means that your criminal record is fully destroyed so that no one can see it, not even law enforcement or a judge. If the court has fully expunged your record, you no longer have to disclose that you have a criminal past on employment, housing, or loan applications, and the expunged offenses no longer show up on background checks.
When your record is sealed, it is not destroyed. Instead, it is closed off from public view, but certain governmental bodies, like the court, district attorneys' office, the police, and potentially professional licensing boards, may still be able to access it. Thankfully, though, sealed records still do not have to be disclosed on employment or housing applications.
Pardons usually are used to request the removal of convictions that are ineligible to be expunged or sealed. A pardon is a request for total forgiveness from the state. To get one, you must request it from the Governor through the Board of Pardons.
What records are eligible for an expungement?
Expungements only are available in a limited number of circumstances. These include:
- Arrests with no convictions,
- Convictions for summary offenses like disorderly conduct and loitering as long as you haven't been arrested for 5 years since the conviction,
- Convictions where the person is 70 years old and has remained arrest-free for 10 years since being convicted, and
- Matters where the court resolved the charges through a special program such as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or the Small Amount of Marijuana program.
What records are eligible to be sealed?
Though there is some overlap with expungements, Pennsylvania will automatically seal records involving arrests with no convictions, convictions for 2nd and 3rd-degree misdemeanors as long as the person has remained conviction-free for 10 years, and summary offenses that are 10 years old. You can also petition the court to seal the records of certain convictions that may not be automatically sealed by law.
How do I get my record sealed or expunged?
To start the process of clearing your record, you must obtain your full arrest record from the Pennsylvania State Police. After receiving your record, you can then follow up with the Clerk of Courts in the county where your arrest took place for additional filing instructions for your expungement petition. Once your petition is filed, the court will decide whether it will grant your request. Depending on the circumstances of the case and your criminal record, a hearing may or may not be required. An experienced attorney will be able to help you best understand prospective steps forward and potential scenarios regarding the resolution of the expungement or record sealing process.
Do I need legal help with this? If so, how do I get it?
When it comes to clearing your record, there are countless ways to make errors that can cost you time and money, so having an experienced attorney by your side makes all the difference.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience pursuing avenues to clear his client's criminal records. If you are ready to clear your PA record, call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today.