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Clearing Your Criminal Record in Pennsylvania

A criminal record will impact your life so long as people -- like employers or banks -- can conduct a background check and uncover it. That criminal background check can cost you your job, a loan, even child custody, among other things, like housing and the right to purchase a firearm. 

For some of you, there is a way out of this problem: expungement. If you qualify, you can have your criminal record cleared, meaning no one will be able to find it after conducting a public search. That means no worries about the arrest or criminal record impeding your ability to attain a good job, get a good education, find good housing, among everything else a criminal record can affect.

David J. Cohen, former police officer, helps his clients through the expungement process, which is governed by Title 18, Section 9122. As a criminal defense attorney now, his first priority is ensuring his clients succeed, and expungement can be one part of that process.

What is the expungement process in Pottstown, Pennsylvania?

The expungement process in Pennsylvania is relatively straight-forward if you know what you are doing. Below is a summary of the basics.

  1. Complete form SP 4-170.
  2. Mail the form to the Central Repository address, which is listed on the form, along with:
  • A certified check or money order in the amount of $20.00 (subject to change) payable to “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”;
  • A copy of a government-issued photo ID (e.g., driver's license)
  • Legal affidavit or letter of representation -- if it was required
  • Upon receipt of your arrest and criminal conviction record from the Central Repository, you then contact the Clerk of Courts in the county where your arrest took place. This is where it can get tricky. Each county may be a bit different from how you proceed to petition the court to expunge your record of arrests and court records. 
  • After you complete your county's specific instructions, the court will consider certain factors to determine if your record should be expunged. These factors include:

    • how the record harms you and your future;
    • your source of income;
    • the crime that was committed and the circumstances around it;
    • any prior criminal record; and/or
    • if it's in the state's best interests (meaning the public's best interest) to expunge your record.

    If the court issues an order for expungement, the Clerk of Courts will notify the Pennsylvania State Police, and the record will be expunged. The overall process can take anywhere between four and six months with the exception for minors who may see their expungement taking effect immediately as well as persons who participated in Section 17 probation who will see expungement take effect automatically.

    You should keep in mind that the District Attorney's Office can object to your expungement request. That said, the court has the final say. Your attorney can make sure the forms are completed properly and all steps are timely taken. If you retain an attorney, he will represent you at the hearing, too.

    Who qualifies for expungement?

    Though Pennsylvania is pretty generous with regard to expungements than most other states, the list of who qualifies is still quite limited. Only the following persons can be successful when requesting an expungement in Montgomery County:

    • Persons who received a summary offense and five years free of any criminal activity must have transpired. 
    • Persons who received Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), the Small Amount Marijuana Program, or Section 17 probation and completed the program successfully.
    • Persons who were arrested but not convicted can have their arrest record expunged, and this includes:
      • dismissed cases;
      • withdrawn cases;
      • nolle prossed cases; and 
      • cases where the person was found not guilty.
    • Persons must not have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor unless he or she received a pardon.
    • Persons who are 70 years old or older and who have had no arrests within the last ten years.
    • Persons who are juveniles can have most types of juvenile cases expunged if:
      • there are no subsequent convictions;
      • there are no subsequent adjudications;
      • there are no pending charges;
      • five years have passed with completion of the sentence; and 
      • the crime was not a sex offense.

    At the time of your request, you must also not have any pending charges against you and your criminal record must otherwise be clean -- expungement is for one specific event and not a series of criminal arrests.

    What are alternatives to expungement?

    When a person does not qualify for expungement, there may be an alternative that can be helpful. You could qualify:

    • Record sealing, which applies only to certain misdemeanors and refers to limited access to a person's arrest and conviction records -- only certain agencies have access and, thus, the records may not generate for things like an employment background check.
    • Pardon, which involves a request to the Governor to pardon your conviction, and if pardoned, you will then be eligible for expungement -- anyone can apply for a pardon and the pardon can address a person's entire criminal record.

    Contact a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney in Pottstown PA to Get Your Record Expunged

    David J. Cohen, a former police officer and experienced criminal defense lawyer, understands how important it is for his clients to have their arrest and criminal court records expunged. It can mean the difference between quality living and just getting by. Contact David J. Cohen Law Firm, LLC today with your questions on expungement and learn how he can help you.

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