Pennsylvania Expungement: Wiping the Slate Clean
Most people are not familiar with the term "expungement," since it is not a term often used in one’s everyday vocabulary. Most people could live their entire lives without ever knowing what the term means, let alone actually use it in a sentence. However, if you are one with a criminal conviction on your record, an expungement may prove to be your saving grace and help you wipe the slate clean.
Section 9102 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code technically defines the term expungement as the removal of information so that there is no trace or indication that such information existed. In laymen’s terms, an expungement simply means the removal of criminal convictions from a person’s criminal record.
Generally, the types of information that may be expunged include arrest records, indictments, formal charges, criminal complaints and any disposition of the criminal charges, including guilty pleas, guilty verdicts and admission into a first-time offender program. Conversely, the types of information that cannot be expunged include mass-published materials, such as police blotters, press releases and wanted posters.
Section 9122 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code specifically provides that the following people may be eligible for an expungement: (1) a person who is seventy (70) years or older and has been free of arrest or prosecution for ten (10) years following their final release from confinement or supervision (probation or parole); (2) a person who has been dead for three (3) years or more; (3) a person twenty-one (21) years or older who has been convicted of underage drinking, so long as
that person satisfied all the terms and conditions of their sentence; (4) a person who was arrested but no disposition of formal charges was reported and there is no criminal action pending against them; or (5) a person completes ARD or Section 17 first-time offender program.
In addition to those stated above, a new law has been in effect since February, 2009, that includes individuals who have been convicted of summary offenses and have been free of arrest or prosecution for at least five (5) years following conviction of a summary offense. These additional offenses that may be expunged are public drunkenness, harassment, disorderly conduct and, in some cases, retail theft.
If a person is eligible for an expungement as stated above, that person must file a formal petition requesting the expungement with the court of common pleas in the county where the charges were originally filed. Once the petition is filed, a hearing will be scheduled to determine whether or not the petition should be granted. The district attorney’s office will be notified of this hearing date and will have a chance to object to the petition at that time. If and when the petition
is granted, the court will order the expungement of the person’s criminal record relating to the charge in question. That order will then be supplied to all of the various criminal justice agencies in Pennsylvania, including, but not limited to, the local police department that originally filed the criminal charge, the county clerk of courts office, the county sheriff’s office, the district court that originally held the summary trial or preliminary hearing and the Pennsylvania State
Police. Each criminal justice agency will then have to certify that the criminal record relating to the charge in question was expunged within approximately thirty (30) days of its receipt of the order to do so.
Wiping the slate clean via expungement may be the difference in a person’s ability to be hired for a job, get approved for a loan, rent an apartment or even join the military. Regardless of the reason, nothing is more important that just having the peace of mind knowing that your "slate is wiped clean."
Beginning of Year Review Time
The beginning of the year is not only the time to start thinking about taxes, it also the time to make sure your estate plan is in order. It is a great time to review your Wills, Powers of Attorney, Life Insurance and Retirement accounts, to name a few things.
If revisions are needed you should contact your professional advisors, including your attorney, accountant and financial planner.
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David A. Megay, Esq., and James C. Kovaleski, Esq., speaking at SCORE business planning seminars on 11/8/10, 1/10/11, 4/25/11, 9/12/11, and 11/7/11 (contact SCORE at 610-327-2673).