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Understanding Expungement in Pennsylvania

Mistakes happen. Consequences occur, penalties are paid, and painful incidents retreat into memory.  However, criminal records do not.

A criminal record eliminates and stalls opportunities like adoption, housing requests, educational and employment offers.  In this electronic age, information out there stays out there.  In Berks County, and elsewhere in Pennsylvania, we get requests from individuals with a criminal record asking what they can do to erase it. Under present law, a pardon from the governor is the only way to eliminate a misdemeanor or felony record of conviction. But what about expungement?

Here are some brief answers:

Who qualifies for an expungement? Opportunities for expungement are limited to:

  • Those who fully complete Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or Section 17 drug dependency supervision programs
  • Individuals charged with summary offenses like underage drinking violations who have maintained a clean record for five years
  • Defendants whose charges were dismissed or withdrawn or who were acquitted at trial
  • Individuals 70 years of age with a clear record for 10 years, and individuals dead for three years

What does an expungement do? In Pennsylvania, an expungement removes your record of criminal charges from court records and relevant criminal justice agencies throughout Pennsylvania.  Records of individual criminal history can be viewed through the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (P.A.T.C.H) website.

How do I get an expungement? A written Motion for Expungement must be filed with the court of common pleas in the county where the conviciton occurred. The process can be long and complicated.  Because multiple agencies are involved in any arrest, diligence is required to ensure records are actually removed.

Mistakes happen. Talk to a lawyer and make sure you do not suffer more consequences because of them.

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