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Expungement and Sealing of Criminal Records in Pennsylvania

Many of our clients who have encountered the criminal justice system, in even the most innocuous of circumstances, such as in traffic violations or excessive parking citations, express concern about how such “run-ins” with the law may affect their prospects for such things as employment, housing, education, government benefits, or professional licensure. We are happy to inform them that, in Pennsylvania, it is possible, in many circumstances, to avoid having their criminal record haunt them for the rest of their lives. Depending on the severity of the charges or convictions involved, criminal offenders in Pennsylvania may have their criminal record cleared or “expunged,” precluding them from being accessed on various background checks.

“Expungement” in Pennsylvania, comprehends the full destruction of an individual’s criminal record such that it may not be seen or accessed by any one, including the courts and law enforcement agencies. When a criminal record is expunged, background checks for such things as an apartment rental or a job application will not be able to access this record.

Individuals are eligible for expungement, in the following instances. If a person participated in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, as an alternative to facing a criminal conviction, they may be eligible for an expungement upon successful completion of the program.

Individuals over the age of 70, who have had no criminal offenses within the last ten (10) years may be eligible for an expungement. Additionally, individuals convicted of a summary offense, may also be eligible for an expungement once their sentence is complete, and at least five (5) years have passed without additional criminal involvement.

Finally, if an individual was arrested, but the criminal charges were dismissed by the Court, or withdrawn by the District Attorney’s Office, these charges may also be eligible for expungement. In some cases, however, a “redaction,” also known as a “partial expungement,” may instead be appropriate for charges that were dismissed or withdrawn.

The Pennsylvania Crimes Code also allows for the sealing of criminal records, or “limited access,” as it is called in the statute, which precludes access of criminal records from public view, but does not completely remove or destroy them. Access is restricted, in some circumstances, to such agencies as police departments, criminal court judges, and district attorneys, as well as by certain employers, such as for employment requiring a federal security clearance. Through Pennsylvania’s Limited Access laws, misdemeanor records that include second-degree, third degree, or ungraded misdemeanor-level offenses can be sealed, with a few exceptions. A person must also not have had any criminal offenses for at least ten (10) years, and must have completed any relevant sentencing.

If an individual’s record has been expunged or sealed, she no longer has to disclose that she has had that record, if asked about it when applying for housing or employment, for example.

If you or a loved one is seeking an expungement or criminal record sealing in Pennsylvania, contact the attorneys at Tanner Law Offices at 717-836-0471 to schedule a consultation to discuss the specifics of your case.