Expunging a Criminal Record in Pennsylvania

If a person is arrested in Pennsylvania, the record of the arrest may follow the person for quite some time - even if the person was never charged or convicted. Given the frequency with which employers conduct background checks, even the record of an arrest may be enough to remove a person from a pool of candidates for a job. An arrest or criminal record can also affect people applying for school, housing, credit or gun permits. Fortunately, there is a way to remove certain offenses from a criminal record in a process called expungement.

What Is an Expungement?

An expungement is sealing a record so that most people cannot access the information. An expunged arrest or offense should also not show up in a background check.

Some law enforcement agencies will still have access to the expunged records, however.

What Offenses Are Eligible for Expungement?

In Pennsylvania, a person may petition to expunge arrests and non-convictions such as:

  • A verdict of not guilty
  • A dismissal
  • A withdrawal of charges
  • Nolle prosequi, where the prosecutor decides not to pursue the charges further
  • Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition
  • Probation Without Verdict under the Controlled Substances Act.

After a change to the law passed in 2008, a person may now expunge a summary offense as well, as long as the offense happened at least five years ago and the person has had a clean record since the offense. A summary offense is an offense usually punished by a fine, such as underage drinking, driving without a license and speeding.

How to Expunge a Criminal Record

People have to file a petition asking the court to order the expungement of their criminal records. The petitioner must mail the petition to the District Attorney, who will either approve or deny the petition. If the District Attorney approves the petition, the petitioner must bring the petition to a judge for the judge to sign. After the judge signs the order expunging the records, the petitioner must make several copies and deliver them to various agencies so the records are expunged.

Expunging records can be a complicated process. If you are interested in having an arrest or conviction expunged from your record, consult an experienced expungement lawyer who can help you.