A criminal record can have a very serious negative impact upon your life. It can hurt your reputation, lessen your earnings capacity, keep you from obtaining licenses or certifications in certain professions (for example, lawyer or teacher) or keep you from being employed at all. To the extent that you can, if you have such a record, you should have it expunged as soon as possible.
In Pennsylvania, to get adult criminal records expunged, the individual must file a Petition for Expungement with the Court of Common Pleas in the county in which the offenses occurred. At the time the petition is filed, a hearing is scheduled before a judge who will determine if the expungement request should be granted.
With two exceptions, only non-conviction data can be expunged. Non-conviction data includes:
1. Arrest records that show no disposition took place after 18 months and the court of the proper jurisdiction certifies that no action is pending.
2. Cases that were dismissed or discharged because of lack of evidence or lack of prosecution or because there was no finding of guilt after trial.
3. Cases that were dismissed or discharged because the offender successfully complied with the terms and conditions of certain pretrial dispositions such as the ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) program.
Conviction data may be expunged where the offender is 70 years old and has been free of arrest for at least ten years following his or her final release from supervision. It may also be expunged where the offender had been deceased for at least three years.
In determining if the request for expungement should be granted, the court will take into consideration many factors. These include damage to the individual’s reputation, his livelihood and future earnings capacity, the nature and gravity of the offense, the individual’s prior criminal history and the state’s interest in preserving the record to protect the public.
State law specifically prohibits the courts from expunging records, even though the offender has successfully complied with the terms of ARD where he or she had been charged with certain sexual assault or related offenses against victims under the age of 18.
The Court order for expungement will be promptly submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository for Criminal History Information in Harrisburg, Pa. This agency will disseminate the order for expungement to all other agencies who have previously receive the information that is the subject of the order.
It is important to have complete and accurate criminal history information when filing your request. The Petition for and proposed Order of Expungement must contain by statute information such as the subject’s name, date of birth, social security number, the offenses with which the subject was charged, the case’s docket number, the offense tracking number and the disposition of the case. If this information is not contained in the Petition, the court will dismiss it.