Expungements of criminal records in Pennsylvania
Expungements are fairly straightforward proceedings, but if they are not done correctly, you could end up doing a lot of paperwork for nothing. Expungements are effective at cleaning your record to prevent employers and other agencies from pre-judging you from mistakes you have made in the past. However, only certain kinds of records and only certain categories of crimes can be expunged. Therefore, it is best to speak with an attorney before you attempt to expunge your record.
If you have been found guilty, plead guilty or plead no contest, you can only get your record expunged if the charges were summary level offenses, and an expungement will only be granted after five years of a clean record. (traffic offenses do not count). Even then, the district attorney's office can either consent or contest the granting of an expungement - and ultimately the decision to grant an expungement is left to the discretion of a trial judge in a court of common pleas. (criminal record expunction cannot be conducted at the magistrate court level)
If you were charged with crimes higher than a summary offense, but were only found guilty, or you plead guilty to a summary offense, your arrest record still contains the original misdemeanor and felony charges. This arrest record alone can be found by employers and any individual who knows how to use a web-browser and google. If the charges that were higher than the summary offense where "nolle prosequi", then you have a better chance of getting a judge to expunge those charges. If the other charges higher than a summary offense were merely dismissed as part of a plea bargain, a judge may be less willing to grant an expunction of those records and may order a hearing. It is advisable to have an attorney with you at the hearing in order to set forth the best arguments in your case to have the records expunged.
If you were not found guilty, but rather accepted ARD (alternative rehabilitative disposition), you can also have your arrest record and court records expunged. Some counties, such as Allegheny, automatically expunge records after successful completion of your ARD program. However, many other counties do not automatically expunge any records under any circumstances of ARD or guilty plea/conviction dispositions.
You can look up your own record in Pennsylvania using the Unified Justice Portal. http://ujsportal.pacourts.us/ However, please keep in mind that the electronic records on the justice portal only go back so far. Anything further back than 2000 may not show up. The Pennsylvania State Police maintain records going back further than the Justice Portal. To do a true record check on yourself, it is recommended that you request a criminal record background check with the state police. It costs roughly $10. Furthermore, it is more likely that an employer, tech savvy or not, will use the state police record to conduct a background check.
If you have been denied employment due to your prior record, or you merely want to clean your criminal record, give my firm a call to discuss whether you can have your criminal record expunged.
**None of the above information is intended as legal advice. The above is merely an overview of a legal subject. A person's legal rights can only be assessed through a consultation and discussion of the particular facts and circumstances in a given individual's case.