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Expungement Laws in Pennsylvania Explained

Criminal convictions and arrest records do not have to last forever. In certain circumstances, you can have these records expunged or sealed away, and you can move forward with a fresh start.

An expungement is when certain criminal records are erased and treated as though they never existed. This is great for people with prior convictions because it gives them a fresh start. If you cannot have your records expunged, you might be eligible for limited access. A limited access order does not erase criminal records but seals them away, making them accessible only to specific criminal justice agencies. Clean Slate laws in Pennsylvania allow certain records to be sealed away that may not be eligible for expungement. Not all petitioners are eligible to have their records expunged or sealed under a limited access order, and you should consult with an attorney about your situation.

If you have old convictions holding you back, our Pennsylvania expungement attorneys can help you start over with a clean record. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case evaluation.

How Expungement Works in Pennsylvania

People may file petitions for expungements if they have old convictions hindering their ability to find work, housing, and other necessities. People also want expungements to erase records of embarrassing mistakes, even if they are otherwise not being held back by their criminal record. Courts do not simply give out expungement orders, and our Pennsylvania expungement lawyers can help you file a petition and work through the necessary proceedings.

Expungements are defined under 18 Pa.C.S. § 9102. The law states that to “expunge” is to remove information about a criminal record so that no trace is left and eliminate identifiers placed on people with criminal records. Once the expungement process is complete, nothing should be left to indicate that the records ever existed, and petitioners may treat those records as if they never existed. If a potential employer asks about your criminal history, you do not have to inform them of the expunged conviction or even that you had an expungement.

While many petitioners seek to expunge records of convictions, many other records may be expunged. Even if you are not convicted or even charged, you might want to have records of your arrest expunged. In some cases, these records are automatically expunged when no charges are assessed, or the defendant is acquitted. If not, our Pennsylvania expungement lawyers can help you.

What is Clean Slate Limited Access in Pennsylvania?

Another possibility for those looking to get out from under their criminal records is a limited access order. This order is similar to an expungement with one important distinction: records are not erased. They are sealed. Sealed records are inaccessible to the public, so someone running a background check would not see the sealed records. However, certain criminal justice agencies might have access to the sealed records.

Like expungements, people must petition for certain limited access orders. According to 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122.1(a), the court may only issue an order granting limited access if you submit a petition and meet the various eligibility requirements discussed below. People might be unaware they are eligible for a limited access order, and our Pennsylvania expungement attorneys can determine if you can submit a petition.

Pennsylvania also has a Clean Slate limited access law under 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122.2(a). According to this law, certain offenses are sealed automatically once someone has met all requirements and eligibility criteria. While we do not have to submit a petition for a Clean Slate order, we can help you check with the relevant agencies to figure out if your records are eligible and, if so, when you can expect them to be sealed.

Am I Eligible for an Expungement or Clean Slate Limited Access in Pennsylvania?

Expungement and limited access orders are somewhat similar but have different eligibility criteria. While expungements tend to be more difficult, limited access orders, particularly Clean Slate limited access, apply to a broader range of petitioners. Our Pennsylvania expungement lawyers can help you apply for either.

Expungement Eligibility

Normal expungement eligibility criteria are found under 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122(b) and include three ways a petitioner may be eligible for expungement.

First, you can have your record expunged if you are at least 70 years old and have remained free from arrests or convictions for at least 10 years following your release from prison or supervision. Considering that petitioners must be at least 70 years old to be eligible, most people do not meet this requirement.

Second, your records may be expunged if you have been dead for at least 3 years. While this does not apply to most petitioners, it might be a viable option for family members who want to clear their deceased loved one’s name.

Third, you may have a summary offense expunged if you have remained free from convictions and arrests for at least 5 years following the conviction for the summary offense. While this is a somewhat more feasible option, it only applies to summary offenses.

Limited Access Eligibility

A limited access order may apply to a wider breadth of offenses than an expungement, and many people who are ineligible for expungements might instead have better like petitioning for a limited access order.

Limited access orders may be granted for petitioners with convictions for certain misdemeanors. The offense must be punishable by at least 1 year in prison, but the maximum penalty can be no greater than 5 years. This means most cases involve misdemeanors, and felonies are usually excluded. You must show that you have not been arrested or convicted of another crime for at least 10 years after completing the sentence for the offense you want to be sealed, and you must pay all necessary fines, fees, and restitution.

Eligibility for Clean Slate limited access is somewhat different, and the process is supposed to be automatic, meaning you do not need to submit a petition. The Clean Slate rule applies only to second- and third-degree misdemeanors, or misdemeanors punishable by no more than 2 years. You must also have remained free of arrests and convictions for at least 10 years after being released and paying all fines, fees, and restitution.

Additionally, the Clean Slate law automatically expunges records if you were ultimately not convicted or were later pardoned. The law also automatically seals records related to convictions for summary offenses if at least 10 years have passed and all fines and fees are paid.

Call Our Pennsylvania Expungement Attorneys to Schedule a Free Case Review

Criminal records can significantly hinder people from moving forward with their lives. Our Pennsylvania expungement attorneys can help you erase or seal these records, so you can have a fresh start. For a free case review, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.