criminal record expungement written on a paper beside gavel and book

If you are arrested, charged, or convicted of a criminal offense, a record will exist long after you complete your sentence. This criminal record can complicate your life in many ways and you may struggle to rent an apartment, get hired for jobs, be accepted into educational programs, hold a professional license, and much more. In Pennsylvania, criminal records are particularly accessible and can damage a person’s life for years to come.

To minimize the effect of a criminal record, many people want to have their record expunged. An expungement effectively wipes your record clean so that prospective employers, landlords, and others may not access information about your arrest and criminal case. Only law enforcement will have access to records and prosecutors can use an expunged conviction as a prior offense in future cases. However, an expungement can benefit you in many other ways and it is always worth exploring the option.

New District Attorney Expungement Policy

When you request an expungement, the District Attorney’s office can object to clearing your record, which creates the need to go to court. The DA’s office did not have clear policies on when to object or not and some people may have arbitrarily had their expungements denied. Now, district attorney Larry Krasner has made another change to his office’s policies in favor of defendants’ rights—to automatically support expungement requests under certain circumstances.

Specifically, the following expungements will be supported by prosecutors:

  • Defendants who received an acquittal
  • Defendants who successfully completed a diversionary program, such as drug court
  • Defendants convicted of only summary offenses

In these situations, prosecutors in Krasner’s office will not object to an expungement and, therefore, people will not have to go into court. This saves money and time for both defendants and prosecutors, as well as prevents seemingly random denials. The above policy does not apply to those arrested for sexual assault or domestic violence as, often, such charges are dropped simply because the victim does not agree to testify.

Additionally, the policy requires prosecutors to proactively seek a record expungement in the following cases:

  • The accusations against the defendant were wrongful
  • The DA’s office believes the charges were unfounded
  • The office is confident in the likely innocence of the defendant

In the above cases, even though there is no conviction, the defendant will still have a record showing an arrest and/or criminal charge. Many people are quick to judge when they see someone was arrested and fail to consider whether the arrest and charge were justified. It is important for even those with acquittals or dropped charges to seek an expungement. Krasner stated that he believes the challenges created by a criminal record often lead a person back to crime. He hopes that making expungements easier for many defendants will reduce recidivism.

Pennsylvania Laws Regarding Expungements

In addition to the new efforts by the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia, state lawmakers are also trying to make it easier for certain defendants to expunge their records. A group of bills was proposed that aim to help people who were wrongfully convicted, acquitted, or arrested due to mistaken identity.

Representative James Roebuck stated that the current expungement laws in Pennsylvania are “unfair and inflexible,” and the representatives sponsoring the bill hope to help those who were not convicted have a fair chance at jobs, housing, and more. In cases involving mistaken identity, one bill would require the immediate and automatic expungement of the arrest record.

Legislatures are also trying to help young people who are suspended expunge their records. This aims to provide a fair chance at college acceptance and the ability to live in campus housing without any special supervision. All of the bills are in the early stages of the legislative process and we will keep you updated regarding any new developments.

Seeking Expungement

The new Philadelphia policy regarding expungement allows certain people to apply for and receive an expungement without having to go to court. However, there are still many, many people with criminal records that will not qualify for an automatic expungement. Prosecutors may still oppose many expungement requests, requiring defendants to go to court and defend their request at a hearing.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help obtain expungements for many people. Not only can an attorney make sure that your application is completed accurately and persuasively, but they can also argue on your behalf should a court hearing be necessary. Just because new laws or policies may not directly apply in your case does not mean that you do not have a chance at an expungement. You should have a skilled lawyer review the circumstances of your case to advise you on your possible expungement options.

A new law took effect in 2016 that extended expungement opportunities to certain defendants in Pennsylvania. Specifically, individuals convicted of second or third-degree misdemeanors can seek an expungement if they do not receive any subsequent convictions for ten years. There are exceptions to the law, as many specific offenses are not eligible. However, it is always worth it to discuss your rights with a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who fully understands the changing laws and how they apply to your case. A simple call to our criminal defense firm may be able to start the process of clearing your record and improving opportunities for your future.

Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Law Firm to Discuss Your Options

If you get arrested, calling an expungement lawyer as soon as possible can improve the outcome in your case. Our firm begins protecting your rights immediately and working to build the most effective defense to obtain an acquittal or have your case dropped. Having the right attorney on your side can help you avoid a conviction whenever possible.

Whether you were acquitted or convicted of past charges, you should consider seeking an expungement of your record. Please call The Zeiger Firm at (215) 546-0340 or contact us online to discuss your rights after being arrested or charged with a crime.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.