Recently, news reports surfaced about a 2007 charge against Representative George Santos that had been expunged in Pennsylvania. According to the reports, Santos had been charged with writing more than $15,000 worth of bad checks to dog breeders, apparently to purchase puppies. Santos denied the charges and claimed a checkbook for a dog rescue charity he was affiliated with had been stolen, with the bad checks coming from someone else who had the stolen checkbook.
Apparently, the case against Santos was never pursued, and the case records were expunged in November 2021. According to one report, the charge against Santos and the expungement were both confirmed by a “representative from York County District Court.”
Isn't Expungement Supposed to Remove the Record?
This case highlights the limits of expungement in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law prohibits the use of expunged criminal records for a number of purposes, including applying to a state agency for a “license, certificate, registration, or permit.” And – except when requested by a “criminal justice agency” – a defendant whose criminal record has been expunged may not be “required or requested” to disclose that record, and “may respond as if the offense did not occur.” In addition, an expunged record can't be considered a conviction that would prevent the employment of the individual based on Pennsylvania or Federal law prohibiting employment of someone convicted of a crime.
But the criminal records do continue to exist for some purposes, such as for use in any future sentencing if the person whose record was expunged is convicted of another crime, or by the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing for certain research and statistical purposes.
In essence, expungement gives the person whose record was expunged the right in most cases to state that the arrest, charge, or conviction never happened. It also prohibits the use of the criminal record for a number of different purposes. But it doesn't mean that information in the criminal record will never be revealed again.
There Are Still Benefits to Expungement
That doesn't mean that expungement isn't worth pursuing if you qualify. As noted, there are significant personal benefits to being able to state to most anybody who would ask – such as a potential employer, landlord, loan officer, school, or anyone processing an application for a license – that you have not been arrested, charged, or convicted of whatever crime is reflected in the expunged records.
Expungement still won't remove past news reports that may exist relating to an arrest, trial, or conviction, and as you can see with the Santos case, there are situations where information about an expunged charge may end up being disclosed to an aggressive reporter. In addition, there is nothing in the expungement law that prevents people who know about the criminal record from talking about it.
Joseph Lento Can Help You Apply for Expungement
If you have a criminal record in Pennsylvania, and believe that it may be eligible to be expunged, contact Joseph D. Lento for help. He and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team have helped people like you all over Pennsylvania get a new start by applying to expunge their criminal records. They can review your situation and let you know whether you may be entitled to expunge your records, and what is involved in making that happen.