If you were arrested on suspicion of committing a crime but not convicted, the history of your arrest may still be available to the public. An arrest record can negatively impact your ability to secure a job, be released on bond, or receive a gun permit. However, you can take steps to reduce the impact of these negative consequences. For example, you may be eligible for expungement of your criminal record. An experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can help.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is a court-ordered process that seals an individual’s criminal arrest record or at least hides it from public view. Once someone’s criminal record is expunged, he or she doesn’t have to disclose the arrest or charge when applying for jobs or housing. The record of the arrest will generally not appear during criminal background checks done by potential employers, educational institutions, or others who perform a public background inspection. However, certain government agencies, including law enforcement agencies and criminal courts, will still be able to view expunged information.

Which Criminal Records Can Be Expunged?

Pennsylvania law permits anyone who was arrested for a crime but not convicted to apply for expungement. Expungement is available for a variety of circumstances beyond a conviction-less arrest, including if:

  • Someone was found not guilty of a crime.
  • The charges against someone were dismissed, suspended, or abandoned.
  • The individual agrees to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program in a plea agreement that includes expungement as an option.
  • There was no disposition in the case within 18 months from the date of the arrest, and the court verifies that there are no actions pending.
  • A court order is in place that requires non-conviction data to be expunged.
  • An individual reaches the age of 70 and has been arrest- and prosecution-free for at least 10 years following his or her final release from confinement or supervision.
  • An individual has been dead for at least three years.
  • A person has been arrest-free for at least 10 years following a conviction for a second or third-degree misdemeanor.
  • Someone’s case resulted in a guilty verdict, but he or she received a pardon from the governor.

The records that may be expunged include:

  • Conviction records for summary offenses, which are low-level crimes that carry penalties of no more than 90 days in jail, as long as the individual has not been arrested or prosecuted for any other crime in at least five years since the conviction.
  • Arrest records, if there has been no disposition in 18 months following a conviction.
  • Cases resolved through the ARD program, with some exceptions.
  • Underage purchase, consumption, or possession of alcohol by a person over 18 but under 21, upon successful completion of all sentencing terms.

What Records Cannot Be Expunged?

Yes, some records are not eligible for expungement, including conviction records for most felony convictions, repeat offenders, or those who fail to complete sentencing requirements for misdemeanor offenses. Additional records that cannot be expunged include:

  • Misdemeanor convictions for firearms offenses
  • Sexual offenses that require registration as a sex offender
  • Offenses involving cruelty to animals
  • Offenses involving intimidation or retaliation against a witness
  • Impersonation of a public official
  • Offenses that carry a potential sentence of more than 2 years
  • Those repeat offenders of crimes that carry a potential sentence of more than 1 year

What Is the Expungement Process?

Under Pennsylvania law, the expungement process includes the following steps:

  • Petitioning the court. The petition must include specific information, such as the date of the complaint and arrest, the municipal court or court of common pleas docket number, the specific charges listed on the record to be expunged, the disposition of the case, and the reason the petitioner wants the records expunged.
  • A copy of the petitioner’s criminal history report, provided by the Pennsylvania State Police, must be attached to the petition. This report must have been obtained no more than 60 days before filing the petition.
  • At the same time as the petition is filed, a copy of the petition must also be forwarded to the attorney for the Commonwealth.
  • Within 60 days after receiving the petition, the attorney for the Commonwealth must either file with the court consent to the filing, an objection to the filing or take no action. A copy of the consent or objection must also be provided at that time to the petitioner’s attorney or to the petitioner if unrepresented.
  • Within 14 days following the Commonwealth’s response, the judge must either approve or deny the petition or schedule a hearing into the matter.
  • If the judge approves the petition, he or she will enter an order directing expungement. This order should include much of the same information from the petition, as well as the criminal justice agencies upon which the order will be served. A certified copy of this order will be received by the clerk of the court, as well as by all of the agencies identified in the order.
  • If a judge denies the petition for expungement, the judge will issue an order denying the petition and provide his or her reasons for the denial. The petitioner will have 30 days to file an appeal, during which time the judge’s order will be stayed. If an appeal is made during that time, the order will be stayed pending the disposition of the appeal and further order of the court.

Let the Zeiger Firm Help Expunge Your Philadelphia Criminal Record

A lot of people think that if they aren’t found guilty of a crime, the charge and all of the evidence that was gathered against them will go away. However, without expunging those records, this information can end up following a person around for years and create all kinds of problems. If you’d like to know more about expungement or discuss whether or not you are eligible to have your criminal records expunged, let the experienced record expungement lawyers at the Zeiger Firm help. We have represented clients in all types of expungement cases, including governor pardons. Call the Zeiger Firm at (215) 546-0340, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation and case review.