Expunging a Trespassing Charge in Pennsylvania
Trespassing may be one of the most common criminal convictions. It's far too easy and tempting to wander on to private or government property where you aren't allowed, even with warning signs. But the consequences of what seems like a minor criminal conviction can be long-lasting, impacting your education, career, and even your ability to rent or buy a house. Trespassing charges can range from a summary offense to a felony.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania understands that everyone makes mistakes. As a result, Pennsylvania law allows you to expunge minor crimes called summary offenses. An expungement is a court order that directs the destruction or removal of criminal and administrative records of an arrest, charge, or conviction.
What Can I Expunge in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, you can usually expunge summary offenses from your criminal record as long as you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years since the completion of your sentence. A "summary offense" is a minor offense, less serious than a misdemeanor or felony, and more akin to an ordinance violation or traffic violation. The maximum penalty is up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. However, summary offenses usually incur only a fine.
You may also be able to expunge criminal charges, including misdemeanor and felonies, if you were never convicted. These expungable offenses include not guilty verdicts, nolle prosse dispositions, dropped charges, and dismissed charges. However, if you have a misdemeanor or felony conviction in Pennsylvania, you generally can only expunge them in very limited circumstances. You may be eligible to have those charges sealed instead.
Trespassing in Pennsylvania
You may be eligible to have a trespassing conviction expunged in Pennsylvania if it was a summary offense. Under state law, whether trespassing is a summary offense, a misdemeanor, or a felony depends on where the property location the trespasser's intent, and whether the property owner personally communicated to the trespasser of the offense.
(b) Defiant trespasser.--
(1) A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by:
(i) actual communication to the actor;
(ii) posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders;
(iii) fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders;
(iv) notices posted in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the person's attention at each entrance of school grounds that visitors are prohibited without authorization from a designated school, center or program official;
(v) an actual communication to the actor to leave school grounds as communicated by a school, center or program official, employee or agent or a law enforcement officer; or
(vi) subject to paragraph (3), the placement of identifying purple paint marks on trees or posts on the property which are:
(A) vertical lines of not less than eight inches in length and not less than one inch in width;
(B) placed so that the bottom of the mark is not less than three feet from the ground nor more than five feet from the ground; and
(C) placed at locations that are readily visible to a person approaching the property and no more than 100 feet apart.
(2) Except as provided in paragraph (1)(v), an offense under this subsection constitutes a misdemeanor of the third degree if the offender defies an order to leave personally communicated to him by the owner of the premises or other authorized person. An offense under paragraph (1)(v) constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree. Otherwise it is a summary offense.
(b.1) Simple trespasser.--
(1) A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place for the purpose of:
(i) threatening or terrorizing the owner or occupant of the premises;
(ii) starting or causing to be started any fire upon the premises; or
(iii) defacing or damaging the premises.
(2) An offense under this subsection constitutes a summary offense.
18 Pa. Code § 3503 (2019).
Can I Expunge a Trespassing Charge?
You may be able to expunge a trespassing charge if:
- The police charged you with summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony trespassing, but the court never convicted you. You may not have a conviction if the court found you not guilty or entered a nolle prosse disposition, or if the police dropped the charges or a court dismissed them.
- Your conviction for trespassing was a summary offense, and you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years.
- You completed a diversionary program where you completed probation or community service, and the court then dismissed the charges. Diversionary programs include programs like the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or another alternative adjudication program.
You may also be able to expunge trespassing charges if you were under 18 at the time, it was a summary offense, and you meet all the requirements for a juvenile record expungement. An experienced Pennsylvania expunction attorney can give you more guidance on whether you qualify for expungement.
Sealing Trespassing Charges in Pennsylvania
If you have a conviction for misdemeanor trespassing, you may qualify to have the records sealed. Under Pennsylvania's Act 5 of 2016, you can have some nonviolent misdemeanors "sealed" after ten years of no arrests or charges.
Moreover, as of 2019, the courts will automatically seal some records, including:
- Criminal arrests if you were never convicted
- Charges where the court or jury found you not guilty
- Nonviolent criminal convictions that are ten years or older
- Misdemeanor offenses that involved fewer than two years in prison
Law enforcement agencies, both state and federal, can still access your sealed records, but they are no longer available to the general public. You also shouldn't have to disclose them to most employers.
Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney Experienced in Expunctions
If you need to seal criminal records in Pennsylvania, you should consult an experienced expunction attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney proficient in helping clients expunge criminal records. He can help. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686.