Sometimes college or high school can be challenging. If you're a good student, you or your child may be tempted to help a friend with a paper or dissertation. Sometimes these term papers can fetch hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on the length and subject area. If your child is strapped for cash or working through school, it can be tempting to put those skills to work. But in Pennsylvania, as in many states, selling a term paper, dissertation, or thesis paper is illegal.
If you or your student has a criminal record for illegally selling a term paper, it can affect your academic career. You could face suspension or expulsion from school and find it challenging to gain admission to another college or graduate school. Fortunately, Pennsylvania believes in second chances, and state law offers several options to clean up your criminal record through sealing or expungement.
Charges for Unlawful Sale of Dissertations, Theses, and Term Papers
While it seems like selling a term paper should be a matter solely for the students and educational institutions involved, it's also illegal under Pennsylvania law. The law states that no person shall “sell or offer for sale to any student enrolled in a university, college, academy, school or other educational institution within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania any”:
- Assistance in preparing, researching, or writing or
- Selling or distributing
“a dissertation, thesis, term paper, essay, report or other written assignment,” knowing that the student intends to submit it for class credit. The law also prohibits selling these papers to a distributor who resells papers to students.
18 Pa. Stat. § 7324 (1973). So, Pennsylvania law prohibits you from selling a student a paper, selling assistance writing a paper, or reselling something you've written to someone who sells or distributes papers to other students.
Penalties for Unlawful Sale of Dissertations, Theses, and Term Papers in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, selling a paper or assistance in writing a paper to a student or a distributor is a third-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. It is also possible for someone, typically a school or other educational institution, to obtain an injunction to keep another person from selling or distributing papers for sale. Violating an injunction or court order could subject you to future penalties and additional charges. See 18 Pa. Stat. § 6310.3(b) (2018).
Sealing Your Record for Unlawful Sale of Dissertations, Theses, and Term Papers Through Clean Slate
If you have a criminal conviction for selling term papers in Pennsylvania, you may have already discovered how having a criminal record can affect your future. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law offers many people a second chance by cleaning up their records. In the past, many people who qualified to expunge or seal their criminal records didn't do so because they didn't know they could. In response, the Pennsylvania legislature created two options for sealing records through Clean Slate and Act 5 legislation. While sealed records will still exist, they will no longer be easily accessible to the public.
Under the new Clean Slate option, the state will automatically seal the records of those who qualify five to ten years after they complete their sentence. You may qualify for Clean Slate sealing if:
- Your conviction is for a summary offense,
- Your conviction is for a second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- Your conviction is for an ungraded offense punishable by no more than two years in jail, or
- Your charges were dismissed, or you were found not guilty.
The state will automatically seal your records for summary offenses after five years. If you have a third-degree misdemeanor conviction for selling a term paper, the state will automatically seal your record ten years after you complete your punishment and pay your fines. If you have a juvenile conviction for selling a term paper, your options for sealing your record may vary. In some cases, you may qualify to expunge a juvenile record for sealing a term paper if you are now over 18.
Sealing Your Conviction for Selling a Term Paper with an Act 5 Petition
Even if you don't qualify for Clean Slate sealing, you may be eligible to seal your record with an Act 5 petition. An Act 5 petition is not automatic; you must petition the court to seal your record. However, it does apply to a wider range of convictions in Pennsylvania. You may qualify to petition the court under Act 5 if:
- You completed your sentence and paid all fines at least ten years ago,
- You don't have any additional arrests or convictions that can be punished by a year or more in jail,
- Your conviction was for a misdemeanor or an ungraded conviction punishable by five years or less in prison.
Sealing a Juvenile Record for Unlawful Sale of Dissertations, Theses, and Term Papers
If you were under 18 when convicted of selling a term paper, you might qualify to expunge or seal your record if you are now 18 and it's been at least six months to five years, depending on the severity of the offense and whether you have any additional convictions. However, determining your waiting period and the method of sealing can be challenging for those who aren't experienced in handling Pennsylvania sealing and expungement matters. That's why you should consult attorney Joseph D. Lento and his skilled Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm.
Hire Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Expungement and Sealing Team at the Lento Law Firm
If you have a conviction for selling a term paper or your child or young adult has a conviction, it may be time to clean up that criminal record. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping people in Pennsylvania seal and expunge their criminal records for years. Find out how they can help you. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online.