A criminal record can interfere with virtually every aspect of your daily life.  In some instances, former offenders can seal their records by obtaining what’s called an expungement.  In this article, our criminal defense lawyers will explain how expungements work in Pennsylvania, special rules for expunging federal crimes, and the benefits and limitations of Presidential Pardons.

For understandable reasons, fines and prison are the greatest concerns for most criminal defendants.  However, these and other formal penalties are not the only negative repercussions of being convicted.  Long after defendants have served their time, paid their restitution, and satisfied all other requirements to which they are subject, they are often left to struggle with the informal penalty of bias, stigmatization, and discrimination.

Despite the enactment of numerous state and federal laws designed to prohibit discrimination, the fact of the matter is that employers, lenders, and landlords often find ways to circumvent these regulations.  Unfortunately, a criminal record is a burden which frequently leads to housing discrimination, lending discrimination, and/or employment discrimination.

Expungements seek to lighten this burden by giving convicted offenders the opportunity to seal their criminal records from the general public, with some exceptions.  Each state follows different expungement laws – some of which are tougher than others.  Pennsylvania law permits only the expungement of:

But what about federal crimes, such as money laundering, embezzlement, and tax evasion?  Can they be expunged, too?

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Generally speaking, federal crimes cannot be expunged.  While the vast majority of federal crimes are unfortunately ineligible for expungement, there is one narrow yet crucial exception: the special exception for certain federal drug crimes, which affects young offenders.

This exception is addressed by 18 U.S. Code § 3607 (Special Probation and Expungement Procedures for Drug Possessors).  In accordance with 18 U.S. Code § 3607(c), a record of disposition for federal simple possession – or in other words, possession for personal use only (as opposed to possession with intent to deliver, or PWID) – may be expunged if both of the following requirements are also satisfied:

If these factors are both in place, then the court may enter an expungement order, which “shall direct that there be expunged from all official records… all references to [the offender’s] arrest for the offense, the institution of criminal proceedings against [the offender], and the results thereof.”  There is, however, one exception: the Department of Justice will still keep a copy of the offender’s record, to which the appropriate court will refer should the offender ever be arrested and prosecuted again in the future.

The purpose of the expungement is to restore the offender “to the status he [or she] occupied before such arrest or institution of criminal proceedings” – in other words, to make it seem as if the arrest never occurred.

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If the offender was convicted of a federal offense other than simple possession, he or she will not be able to obtain an expungement.  However, in some instances it is possible to obtain a Presidential Pardon, which can help to restore some of the recipient’s rights.  A Presidential Pardon will not seal the record of the offense, nor will it remove the former offender’s responsibility for disclosing his or her history on various applications.

If you’ve been charged with a federal crime, you’re facing incredibly harsh criminal penalties.  Most federal sentences are longer than their state counterparts, and fines can range into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.  If you are convicted, you will also have to fight against the many personal and professional obstacles which come from having a criminal record.

The defense attorneys of Krasner & Long are prepared to challenge even the most serious federal charges, including rape and homicide, and have obtained favorable outcomes for numerous clients.  If your loved one has already been convicted, we may be able to assist them with the criminal appeals process.  To learn more about how we can help in a free and private legal consultation, call our law offices right away at (215) 882-9752.  We handle cases in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania.

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