Expungement involves applying to a court for an order to destroy criminal records. Factors that are usually considered consist of whether the record includes:
- An arrest
- A conviction
- A conviction for a serious crime
- Convictions for multiple crimes
Expungement is not an all or nothing proposition. A court may decide to agree to expunge certain records of arrests in cases where charges were withdrawn or dismissed while refusing to expunge a record of a conviction of a recent serious offense. It is also relevant how much time has passed since the conviction. The court typically maintains discretion whether to expunge a record based on an analysis of the severity of the offense and other factors.
There are several reasons to seek to expunge a criminal record. Applications for employment, housing, and the like often overtly ask whether you have a criminal record. Even if the question is not asked overtly, it is possible to find such information via internet searches. In addition, a person may not be eligible to obtain certain professional licenses if they have a criminal record.
Impact of Expungement
If a court orders expungement of a criminal record, then law enforcement agencies are required to destroy it. Once an expungement happens, a person who had a prior criminal record can truthfully claim never being arrested, accused, or charged with a crime. States vary regarding when they will allow a person to expunge their criminal record. In Pennsylvania, the law defines instances where expungements are allowed, including:
- Arrest but no disposition of the case after 18 months, provided there are no pending criminal proceedings on the record
- Completion of an accelerative rehabilitative disposition for a crime other than a sex crime against a minor
- Offense of purchase, consumption, or possession of alcohol provided the offense was committed when the applicant was older than 18 years old at the time and the applicant applies when they are at least 21 years old
- Summary offense after five or more years have passed
Orders for Limited Access
In Pennsylvania, even if a criminal record cannot be expunged, it is possible to apply for a court order to limit access to the record. Convictions of a second-degree misdemeanor, a third-degree misdemeanor, or an ungraded offense having a maximum sentence of less than two years of prison time may qualify. However, the court will not consider sealing a record until 10 years after any time served in prison for the offense.
There are several criminal records that are not eligible for an order of limited access, including:
- Impersonating a public servant
- Intimidation of or retaliation against a witness or victim
- Offenses requiring registration as a sex offender
- Convictions for four or more offenses that carry a sentence of at least one year in prison
The impact of an order for limited access is to disallow certain criminal justice agencies from disclosing the criminal record to the general public.
West Chester Criminal Lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes Fight for the Rights of Those Convicted
If you have a criminal record and would like to clear your name, you may qualify to have your record expunged or sealed. Contact the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes to speak with an experienced West Chester criminal lawyer by calling 610-431-7900 or complete an online form today for a free consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.