If you have a criminal conviction for “tampering with public records or information” in Pennsylvania, you probably already know that a criminal record can affect your life beyond a prison sentence and fines. It can also affect your future career and educational prospects and, in some cases, even keep you from getting a loan or renting a home. But in Pennsylvania, the law does offer a couple of options to clean up your criminal record.
Expungement is often the best way to destroy a criminal record. But under Pennsylvania law, not many people with misdemeanor or felony convictions qualify for expungement. However, you may be able to limit public access to your arrest or criminal records through automatic sealing or a petition to the court.
Pennsylvania Statute for Tampering With Public Records or Information
You may be charged with tampering with public records or information if you:
- Knowingly make a false entry or false alteration of any “record, document or thing belonging to, or received or kept by, the government for information or record, or required by law to be kept by others for information of the government
- make, present, or use any “record, document or thing knowing it to be false, and with the intent that it be taken as a genuine part” of government information or records, or
- intentionally and unlawfully destroy, conceal, remove, or otherwise impair “the verity or availability of any such record, document or thing.”
18 Pa. C.S. § 4911 (1973).
Penalties for Tampering With Public Records or Information in Pennsylvania
The grading of a charge for tampering with public records in Pennsylvania will change depending on the circumstances of your case. But tampering with public records in Pennsylvania can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. The statute states, “[a]n offense under this section is a misdemeanor of the second degree unless the intent of the actor is to defraud or injure anyone, in which case the offense is a felony of the third degree.” 18 Pa. C.S. § 4911
- Penalties for Misdemeanor Tampering With Public Records or Information Charges Typically, a charge for tampering with public records or information in Pennsylvania will be a second-degree misdemeanor unless the state shows you intended to defraud someone. While a “misdemeanor” seems minor, the penalties can include jail time. A second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania is punishable by a fine of $500 to $5,000 and up to two years in prison.
- Penalties for Felony Tampering With Public Records or Information Charges If the state shows that you had the intent to defraud or injure someone, your charge for “tampering with public records or information” can become a third-degree felony. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony conviction is punishable by a fine of $2,500 to $15,000 and up to seven years in prison. You will also have a felony criminal record, which can impact job applications, college or graduate school applications, professional licensing, and security clearances.
Sealing Your “Tampering With Public Records or Information” Criminal Record Through Clean Slate
Recently, our state legislature passed new legislation aimed at allowing more people to seal their criminal records. Before passing the “Clean Slate” law in 2019, most people eligible to seal their records never did, either because they didn't know they could or because the court process seemed too overwhelming. Now, the state will automatically seal the records of those eligible after five to ten years. You may qualify to have your records automatically sealed if:
- You have a conviction for a summary offense or a second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- The court found you not guilty, or the state dismissed your charges,
- You have a conviction for a misdemeanor punishable by no more than five years in prison.
If you have a second-degree misdemeanor conviction for tampering with public records, you may qualify for automatic sealing of your arrest and court records under Clean Slate. The waiting period for the automatic sealing of a misdemeanor conviction is typically ten years. But you should consult an experienced sealing and expungement attorney to discuss all your options.
Sealing Your Tampering With Public Records or Information Criminal Record With an Act 5 Petition
Even if you don't qualify for automatic record sealing under Clean Slate, you may still be eligible to petition the court to limit public access to your records under Act 5. While the Act 5 process is not automatic, it applies to a broader range of convictions than Clean Slate. You may be eligible to apply for Act 5 sealing if:
- It's been at least ten years since you completed your sentence and paid all restitution ordered by the court,
- You have a conviction for an ungraded offense or a misdemeanor punishable by no more than five years,
- You don't have any additional convictions or arrests for crimes punishable by a year or more in jail.
You can seal some first-degree misdemeanor crimes under Act 5 that aren't eligible for sealing under Clean Slate. However, if you have a third-degree felony conviction for tampering with public records in Pennsylvania, you will not be able to seal your records under either Clean Slate or Act 5. Pennsylvania allows you to expunge your records under very limited circumstances, such as if you receive a pardon from the governor. But you should consult an experienced Pennsylvania expungement and sealing attorney to explore all your options.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing and Expungement Attorney
If you have a conviction on your record for tampering with public records or information in Pennsylvania, and you'd like to explore your options for cleaning up your record, you need to talk to a skilled Pennsylvania lawyer well-versed in handling sealing matters in the state. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping people clean up their criminal records in Pennsylvania for years, and they can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.