Page last updated: December 7, 2015
Pennsylvania Expungements – What is an Expungement?
Evidence of a criminal record in Pennsylvania, whether the case resulted in conviction or not, can affect your life in many negative ways. You may have difficulty obtaining employment, securing financial aid or entering the military. But, if your criminal case did not result in a conviction, you may be eligible for an expungement. Under the law, “expunge” is defined as “to remove information so that there is no trace or indication that such information existed” or “to eliminate all identifiers which may be used to trace the identity of an individual.” See 18 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues Section 9102.
Pennsylvania Expungements – Are You Eligible for an Expungement?
Under Pennsylvania law, you may be eligible to have your criminal record expunged for the following reasons:
- you were found “not guilty” after trial,
- your case was discharged due to lack of evidence or due to lack of prosecution,
- the District Attorney nolle prossed (withdrew) the charges.
Additionally, individuals who successfully complete diversionary programs such as ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition), the SAM (Small Amount of Marijuana) Program, AMP (Alternative Misdemeanor Program) or Section 17 or Section 18 are eligible for expungement of their criminal records as soon as the charges are withdrawn after completion of the program. But, again, expungement is not automatic. Rather, you must be proactive and file a petition to expunge your record or the charges will remain on your record.
Additionally, if you pled guilty or were found guilty of a summary offense such as underage drinking, disorderly conduct or defiant trespass, you should be eligible for expungement so long as five years have passed since the guilty finding and you have had no contacts with the criminal justice system in that five year period.
Pennsylvania Expungements – Is an Expungement Automatic?
Many people believe that criminal charges in Pennsylvania are automatically expunged if their case is dismissed or withdrawn. However, that is not the case. Rather, these charges remain on your record until a petition for expungement is filed in the county where you were arrested and an order to expunge your record is signed by a judge and forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Therefore, it is important that you not leave court after winning a case and simply assume that the process is over. You should immediately follow-up with an experienced expungement attorney to see that the charges are permanently removed from your record through the expungement process.
Pennsylvania Expungements – What Should I Do?
While you can try to file an expungement petition on your own, every county and District Attorney’s Office in Pennsylvania has different procedures and you are likely to run into multiple pitfalls. In addition, you will become frustrated going back and forth to the courthouse and attending hearings only to learn that you may not even be eligible for expungement or that you did not fill out the paperwork correctly. Therefore, it is important that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney file an expungement petition on your behalf.
The Nenner Law Firm successfully filed thousands of expungement petitions in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks and Chester counties. Many of our clients do not even have to attend the expungement proceedings as we can handle the entire process for you.
After looking up your record with your name and date of birth, our firm can quickly tell you over the phone whether or not you are eligible for an expungement of your criminal record. If you are eligible, we can generally have a petition filed within a week of being hired.
While many expungement petitions are not opposed by the local District Attorney’s Office, some do require litigation if the prosecution opposes expungement despite the fact that you are legally eligible. Therefore, it is important that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the local county practices prepared to challenge any opposition to your expungement. Contact our law firm today to determine whether you are eligible for an expungement of your criminal record. (215) 564-0644