Anyone who’s ever been arrested has a criminal record. A criminal record never expires-it follows you around forever. It can provide major obstacles in securing a job, getting an apartment, or being accepted to school. However, many people don’t realize that they can take proactive steps to get their criminal records cleared. This process is known as expungement.
When you expunge an offense from your criminal record, you essentially wipe your slate clean. It is as though the offense never occurred. If a landlord runs a background check on you, the offense will not appear. If a job application asks you whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime, you’re legally allowed to answer “no.”
Am I eligible?
The state of Pennsylvania does not view all offenses as equal, and it only permits certain offenses to be expunged. You may petition for expungement if one of the following is true:
- You were convicted of a summary offense (the least serious type of criminal offense-such as disorderly conduct or minor theft) and have had no subsequent arrest for at least five years.
- You are older than 70 years old and have had no arrests for at least 10 years.
- The governor has pardoned you for a conviction.
How do I expunge my record?
To begin the expungement process, contact the clerk of courts in the county where the offense occurred and request an expungement petition. You will have to pay a fee, which varies by county. After you submit your petition, the district attorney has the right to review your case and decide whether they object to your expungement. If there is an objection, the district attorney will request a hearing before a judge. There you will have the opportunity to make your case for expungement. If there is no objection, the petition will likely be successful without any further action from you.