When you're facing criminal charges, it can be difficult to look past the immediate future to the jail time and fines you might receive with a conviction for injuring or tampering with a fire hydrant. But the consequences of a criminal conviction can also affect your long-term future. You could face difficulty entering some career fields, applying to college or graduate school, or passing background checks for volunteer work or employment. Fortunately, we have several options for cleaning up your record in Pennsylvania.
Expunging your record is usually the most thorough option for cleaning up a criminal record. With an expungement, the court will order your arrest and court records destroyed. But very few people qualify to expunge their records under Pennsylvania law. If you don't qualify for expungement, you may be able to seal your records, hiding them from public view. In Pennsylvania, you can seal your records under Pennsylvania's Clean Slate or Act 5 statutes.
Pennsylvania Law on Tampering with a Fire Hydrant
Under Pennsylvania law, someone is guilty of injuring or tampering with a fire apparatus or hydrant if they “willfully and maliciously” destroy or deface a fire hydrant, fire engine, hose, or any other public or private fire equipment. The criminal code states:
Whoever willfully and maliciously cuts, injures, damages, or destroys or defaces any fire hydrant, fire hose, fire engine, other public or private fire equipment, or any apparatus appertaining to the same, commits a misdemeanor of the third degree.
18 Pa. Stat. § 3305 (1973).
In Pennsylvania, someone acts “willfully” if they act knowingly. “A requirement that an offense be committed willfully is satisfied if a person acts knowingly with respect to the material elements of the offense unless a purpose to impose further requirements appears.” 18 Pa. Stat. § 302(g). Pennsylvania law generally defines malicious intent as the intent to commit any act that is the necessary element of an offense. Generally, as long as the defendant does something voluntarily and intentionally, their actions will meet the “willfully” and “maliciously” requirements in the statute.
Penalties for Tampering with a Fire Hydrant
Injuring or tampering with a fire apparatus or hydrant is a third-degree misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, a conviction for a third-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $250 to $5,000.
Sealing Your Tampering with a Fire Hydrant Record Through Clean Slate
Pennsylvania's Clean Slate legislation of 2019 is a groundbreaking statute that allows more people to seal their records than ever before. Before 2019, many people eligible to seal their records never applied, either because they didn't know they could or because the petition was too intimidating or difficult to accomplish. But under the new statute, state courts will automatically seal your arrest and criminal record if you meet the statutory requirements. You may qualify for automatic sealing if:
- You have a conviction for a summary offense, which is not as serious as a misdemeanor,
- The court found you not guilty of your charges or dismissed your case,
- Your conviction is only for a second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- Your misdemeanor conviction was only punishable by two years or less in prison.
When the court seals your records, the state will remove your arrest and criminal records from state databases. However, these records will still exist, and law enforcement agencies, employers required to look at your criminal history under federal law, and employers using FBI background checks will still be able to access sealed criminal records. But most employers, landlords, and other background checks cannot access your sealed criminal records, and you won't be legally required to disclose them in many cases.
Sealing Your Tampering with a Fire Hydrant Conviction with an Act 5 Petition
Even if you don't qualify to seal your record for tampering with a fire hydrant with Clean Slate automatically because of prior convictions or some other reason, you may be able to seal your record through Act 5. Act 5 also applies to a wider range of charges in Pennsylvania. However, Act 5 petitions don't happen automatically. You may petition the court to seal your records ten years after completing your sentence and paying your fines.
You may meet the requirements to petition the court to limit access to your arrest and court records under Act 5 if:
- You have a conviction for either an ungraded offense or a misdemeanor punishable by five years or less in prison,
- You wait ten years after completing your sentence and paying your fines,
- You don't have any arrests or prosecutions for additional crimes punishable by a year or more in jail during your ten-year wait.
While misdemeanor convictions for tampering with a fire hydrant usually qualify for sealing, some first-degree misdemeanors are never eligible for record sealing. Misdemeanors ineligible for sealing include:
- A conviction that involves danger to another person, such as assault,
- A conviction for an offense against your family, including crimes such as domestic violence, bigamy, incest, and child endangerment,
- A conviction for a firearms offense,
- A conviction for an offense involving dangerous weapons, and
- A conviction for an offense involving corruption of a minor such as truancy or statutory rape.
Sealing Felony Criminal Records in Pennsylvania
Unfortunately, if you have any felony conviction in Pennsylvania, you cannot seal or expunge your record. Under Pennsylvania law, felony records can only be sealed or expunged under a few specific situations. If you apply for and receive a pardon from the Governor of Pennsylvania, you are then eligible to apply to expunge your record. People over 70 may also be able to expunge a felony record ten years after their criminal proceedings. You may also expunge records on someone's behalf if the defendant has been dead for three years.
Hire a Skilled Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
Determining the best option to clean up your record under Pennsylvania law can be challenging to figure out on your own. That's where Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his skilled team at the Lento Law Firm can help. They've been helping the people of Pennsylvania navigate sealing and expungement laws for years, and they can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule your consultation, or contact them online today.