When you're facing charges for tampering with records or identification, or if you already have a conviction for the crime on your records, you may be concerned about the long-term consequences. Aside from possible time in jail and hefty fines, a criminal conviction can affect your future. If you're trying to further your education, move into a new job, or have a job requiring a spotless background check, a criminal conviction can jeopardize that. Fortunately, the state of Pennsylvania believes in second chances and offers several options for cleaning up a criminal record.
Expunging a criminal record is typically the most complete way to eliminate a criminal record. But in Pennsylvania, few people qualify to expunge their arrest or court records. You can't typically seal a misdemeanor conviction for tampering with records or identification in Pennsylvania. However, you may be able to seal your record through the state's Clean Slate legislation or petition the court to limit public access under Act 5.
Pennsylvania Statute for Tampering with Records or Identification
You are guilty of tampering with records or identification if:
- You "falsify, destroy, remove, or conceal any "writing or record, or distinguishing mark or brand or other identification,"
- Knowing you don't have the "privilege" to do so, and
- With intent to "deceive or injure anyone or to conceal any wrongdoing."
You may be guilty of tampering with records or identification related to personal property if you:
- Buy, sell or move in commerce "any personal property from which the manufacturer's nameplate, serial number or any other distinguishing number or identification mark has been removed, defaced, covered, altered or destroyed."
If you made the alterations customarily or did them "as an established practice in the ordinary and regular conduct of business by the original manufacturer or under specific authorization and direction from the original manufacturer." 18 Pa. Stat. § 4104 (1979).
This statute doesn't include motor vehicles, firearms, or insurance company salvage recoveries. It's also a defense to this section if you innocently remove or deface the identifying remarks and give any buyer a notarized statement stating that you innocently altered it and that you are its rightful owner.
Penalties for Tampering with Records or Identification in Pennsylvania
The grading of a charge for tampering with records or identification in Pennsylvania will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of the crime. However, tampering with records is typically a misdemeanor or a summary offense.
- Penalties for Misdemeanor Tampering with Records or Identification Charges Tampering with records or identifications is a first-degree misdemeanor if you "falsify, destroy, remove, or conceal any "writing or record, or distinguishing mark or brand or other identification," with intent to injure someone or conceal wrongdoing. Because of the intent involved in this crime, it rates the most serious level of a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of $1,500 to $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
- Penalties for Summary Offense Tampering with Records or Identification Charges Tampering with records or identification is a summary offense under Pennsylvania law if you knowinglybuy or sell personal property with the manufacturer's nameplate, serial number, or distinguishing number or identification mark removed, destroyed, or defaced. A summary offense is less serious than a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law, and the penalties are also less stringent. A conviction for a summary offense carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail, a $300 fine, and restitution.
Sealing Your "Tampering with Records or Identification" Criminal Record Through Clean Slate
In 2019, the Pennsylvania legislature passed new "Clean Slate" legislation, allowing many people to clean up their records with minimal effort automatically. Under the legislation, the court automatically seals some records after a waiting period. You could qualify for automatic sealing if:
- Your conviction is only for a summary offense,
- You don't have a conviction for tampering with records because your charges were dismissed or the court found you not guilty,
- Your conviction is for a second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- Your conviction is for a misdemeanor punishable by five years or less in prison.
While the typical waiting period for automatic sealing of a misdemeanor under Clean Slate is ten years, the state will automatically seal your summary offense conviction five years after you've completed your sentence and paid your fines. If you have a summary conviction for tampering with records or identification, you may qualify to seal your records under Clean Slate.
However, you may also be able to expunge your conviction for tampering with records as well, which is more thorough. You can expunge your summary conviction if:
- You wait five years after completing your sentence and paying your fines, and
- You don't have any arrests or prosecutions for five years following your summary offense.
While expunging your record doesn't happen automatically like Clean Slate sealing, it is more thorough. If the court grants your petition, it will issue an order for state agencies to destroy your records. They won't be simply sealed from public access.
Sealing Your Tampering with Records or Identification Criminal Record with an Act 5 Petition
If you don't qualify to seal your record automatically, you may still be able to petition the court to seal your records under Act 5. Act 5 applies to a broader range of convictions, although it isn't automatic. To seal your record under Act 5, you must petition the court. You could qualify to submit an Act 5 petition if:
- You wait ten years after completing your sentence and paying your fines,
- Your misdemeanor or ungraded conviction is punishable by five years or less in prison,
- During your waiting period, you don't have any arrests or convictions for other crimes punishable by a year or more in jail.
Some first-degree misdemeanors, like assault or domestic violence, aren't eligible for sealing. You also can't seal felony convictions in Pennsylvania. You may be eligible to seal a first-degree misdemeanor conviction for tampering with records or identification with Act 5 in Pennsylvania. However, you should consult an experienced sealing and expungement attorney to discuss your options.
You Need an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
If you're trying to determine the best option for sealing your record for tampering with records and identification, you don't have to do it alone. An attorney well-versed in Pennsylvania record sealing and expungement can help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled team at the Lento Law Firm have helped many people in Pennsylvania clean up their criminal arrests and court records. Find out how they can help you too. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.