The actor and producer Mark Wahlberg has been in the news recently as he petitions the governor of Massachusetts for a pardon for crimes he committed and was convicted for an a juvenile. His case shines the light of celebrity on the issue of pardons and expungements for criminal records. For defendants in Pennsylvania who are not convicted or who qualify for expungement after meeting certain criteria, their path to suppressing or erasing their criminal record, is known as expungement.
What Is Expungement?
Expungement is the process of sealing arrest and conviction records. Like Pennsylvania, most states have laws that that allow people to participate in a process that will result in the expungement of arrests and convictions from their records. Generally, this means that once expunged, such matters are not required to be reported on forms such as housing and job applications.
In Pennsylvania if your criminal record is expunged that means it will not be searchable by the general public, including potential employers. Furthermore, expungement means that a court order will be issued to have all criminal charges and records of the defendant’s arrest erased from all law enforcement agency databases. In Pennsylvania this would include the local county or township police department, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, the PA State Police and the FBI.
Who Is Eligible?
If a defendant is charged with one or more criminal offenses which were either dismissed or there was a failure to convict; then they are generally entitled to an expungement of their criminal record. However, the expungement will not be granted automatically. A petition for expungement must be filed with the court.
Typically, the DA’s office will not contest a Petition for Expungement for defendants with no prior criminal records. Prior felony convictions will often trigger the Commonwealth to oppose the petition on the grounds that a prior conviction has already been recorded, so that expungement of the newer charges is of negligible benefit to the petitioner. In such cases, a hearing is called for a judge to decide whether or not to grant the petition.
Other scenarios that qualify a person for expungement of a criminal record include:
- Graduates of pre-trial diversionary programs like ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) or Section 17.
- Anyone convicted of a summary offense with no additional arrests or contact with the criminal law system for at least 5 years after the conviction.
- Someone who has aged 70 years and has not been arrested for a period of 10 years following their release from prison.
- A person who has been deceased for 3 years. In this case, a family member may petition on behalf of their deceased relative.
Exception To Eligibility
It’s important to be aware of the fact that Pennsylvania state law prohibits the court from expungement of criminal records involving charges of certain sexual assault classifications or related offenses involving victims under the age of 18.
For more information and a free consultation about any legal challenges you may be facing please contact our team at DRK Attorneys today. All of the criminal defense attorneys at DRK Lawyers are former assistant district attorneys. We use our trial experience and knowledge of the government’s tactics to help defend our clients every day in the state of Pennsylvania.