If you have a conviction for public drunkenness in Pennsylvania, you probably already know how the consequences can follow you. Having a criminal record can impact your future career and educational opportunities. Moreover, a juvenile conviction can affect your ability to get into college or obtain scholarships. A conviction while you're in college can also result in your school taking disciplinary action against you as well. But in Pennsylvania, you do have some options to clean up your record.
The most effective way to clean up your record is typically expunging your records and having them destroyed. But not everyone qualifies for expungement under Pennsylvania law. However, Pennsylvania law also allows many people to limit public access to their records by sealing them with the state's Clean Slate or Act 5 legislation.
Charges for Public Drunkenness and Similar Misconduct
You can face charges for public drunkenness in Pennsylvania if you appear in a public place and are obviously under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance if you might endanger or annoy someone nearby. The statute states:
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 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.
18 Pa. Stat. § 5505 (2012). This means it's not a good idea to get drunk watching the game and then go outside and serenade your neighbors at top volume. You could face charges for public drunkenness. College students can often face these charges after parties on or off campus that spill outside and through residential neighborhoods.
Penalties for Public Drunkenness in Pennsylvania
Public Drunkenness is typically a summary offense in Pennsylvania, which is less serious than a misdemeanor or felony and carries less severe penalties. Typically, a conviction for a summary offense can be punished by up to 90 days in jail, a $300 fine, and restitution for any damage caused. However, the statute prohibiting public drunkenness specifically allows a fine of up to $500 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for a second offense.
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.
If convicted of public drunkenness, you could face harsher penalties than most summary offenses.
Sealing Your Record for Public Drunkenness Through Clean Slate
In recent years, Pennsylvania's legislature has taken action to allow more people the ability to seal their criminal records. In 2019, state lawmakers passed Clean Slate legislation revamping our laws regarding the sealing and expungement of criminal records. In some cases, the state will now automatically seal your criminal record after five to ten years. When your records are sealed, they will still exist, but the public will no longer have access to your court or arrest records. You may qualify to have your record automatically sealed with Clean Slate if:
- Your conviction was for a summary offense,
- Your conviction was for a second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- Your conviction was ungraded and punishable by two years or less in prison, or
- The court didn't convict you because the state dismissed the charges or a court found you not guilty.
With a misdemeanor conviction, the state typically waits ten years after the completion of your sentence before automatically sealing your record under Clean Slate. But with a summary conviction, the state will seal your record after only five years. The waiting period can change if your conviction is for a juvenile offense.
If you have a Pennsylvania conviction for a summary offense for public drunkenness, you have the state automatically seal your record with Clean Slate. However, you may also qualify to expunge your record with a conviction for a summary offense or a misdemeanor as a juvenile. Expunging your records will destroy them rather than simply limiting public access. You may qualify to expunge your Pennsylvania conviction if:
- You completed your sentence and paid your fines at least five years ago, and
- You haven't had any additional arrests or prosecutions for additional crimes in the last five years.
While expunging your record doesn't happen automatically, it is a more comprehensive solution than Clean Slate sealing. You will need to petition the court to expunge your record.
Sealing Your Public Drunkenness Conviction with an Act 5 Petition
If you don't meet the qualifications for Clean Slate's automatic sealing, you may still be able to petition the court to seal your record through Pennsylvania's Act 5. While Act 5 sealing isn't automatic, it applies to a wider range of convictions. You can petition for Act 5 sealing if:
- You wait ten years after completing your sentence and paying your fines,
- You don't have any additional arrests or convictions punishable by a year or more in prison, and
- You have a conviction for an ungraded offense or misdemeanor punishable by five years or less in prison.
Sealing a Juvenile Public Drunkenness Record
If you were convicted for public drunkenness when you were a juvenile, you might be able to seal or expunge your record if it's been six months to five years since you completed your supervision or sentence. How long you must wait will depend on your conviction. If you have a juvenile conviction for public drunkenness, an experienced sealing and expungement attorney can give you advice on your options.
You Need an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing and Expungement Attorney
If you have a conviction for public drunkenness and you're considering how to clean up your criminal record, you should discuss your options with an experienced Pennsylvania sealing and expungement attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping Pennsylvanians clean up their criminal records for years, and he can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.