Records Expungement

Whenever a person is arrested for committing a crime, this automatically becomes a matter of public record. Most states allow people to have certain criminal records sealed. This is known as expungement, which is the process of removing the records from public view. It is becoming more common for employers and landlords to conduct a background search. A criminal record can limit the person’s ability to obtain employment or find a place to live. The Internet has made it easy for anyone to view another person’s criminal record.

Many people are not aware that expunging records is a possibility. Even people who were not convicted of a criminal offense may be surprised to learn that their arrest record still exists. Therefore, it is important to contact an expungement attorney who can petition the court for a records expungement. Criminal charges can have a lasting impact on the person’s future and it doesn’t seem fair to be penalized for making one mistake. Some people believe that once criminal charges have been dismissed, they will no longer have a criminal record, but that’s not the case. Each time a person is charged with a criminal offense, the record becomes part of a large database which can be seen by any public agency.

Before Act 134 was passed in 2008, only non-convictions in Pennsylvania were eligible for expungement. A non-conviction includes any of the following:

• The criminal charges were dismissed or withdrawn
• The defendant was found “not guilty” during the criminal trial
• Nolle Prosequi—This is Latin for “we shall no longer prosecute” which means that the case against the defendant has been dropped by the prosecutor or District Attorney’s office.
Most criminal cases never go to trial due to the time and expense it takes to obtain a conviction. An experienced criminal defense attorney is often successful at getting the prosecutor to drop the charges when there is a lack of evidence or the case against the defendant appears weak.

Expungements
Under Pennsylvania law (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 9122) an expungement of record can be obtained as follows:

1. There has been no disposition recorded in the repository (the place where criminal history information is collected) within 18 months following the individual’s date of arrest. The court that has jurisdiction of the matter must certify to the director of the repository that no disposition is available and no action is pending. An expungement of record shall not occur until certification from the court is received and the director of the repository authorizes such expungement.

2. A court order requires that such non-conviction data be expunged.

3. A person who is 21 years of age or older that has been convicted of violating Section 6308, relating to the purchase, possession, consumption or transportation of liquor, malt or brewed beverages, petitions the court in the county where the conviction occurred can seek expungement if the individual has satisfied all of the terms and conditions of the sentence imposed by the court. The court will order all records relating to the conviction to be expunged, including any Department of Transportation administrative records relating to the person’s driver’s license suspension.
In general, criminal history may be expunged when:

• The person reaches the age of 70 and has not been arrested or prosecuted for ten years after being released from supervision or confinement.
• The person has been dead for three years.
• The person petitions the court for an expungement of a summary offense and has not been arrested or prosecuted for fives ears after being convicted of the offense.

A Petition for Expungement must be filed with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the offense occurred. A hearing will be scheduled at which time the judge will decide whether the expungement request will be granted. The court will take several factors into consideration, including how the criminal record has impacted the individual’s ability to earn a living.

ARD Expungements
Every state has specific laws about which types of crimes are eligible for expungement. The State of Pennsylvania allows an expungement of records for people who have completed an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. The primary purpose of the Pennsylvania ARD program is to rehabilitate the offender and eliminate the need for a lengthy and costly criminal trial. It is up to the Office of the District Attorney whether the defendant will be allowed to participate in the program. The most likely candidates include the following:

• The defendant is a first-time offender
• The defendant was charged with a relatively minor offense, such as shoplifting, theft, DUI or another type of non-violent crime
• The defendant is willing to enroll in a treatment program
The Pennsylvania driving under the influence (DUI) laws changed in October 2003 when the blood alcohol content (BAC) was lowered from .10 to .08. The penalties for a first DUI offense include the following:
• Charged with committing a misdemeanor offense
• A fine of $300
• Up to six months of probation
• Ordered to complete highway safety school
• Ordered to attend a treatment program

First-time offenders who successfully complete the ARD program will be eligible to have their DUI records expunged. A DUI expungement should be handled by an ARD attorney who is familiar with the process and can get the case handled quickly and efficiently. We have the experience of arguing cases in court and we will make sure the defendant’s rights are represented at all times. Our flat fee covers all the costs of conducting research, filing motions and responding to opposition from the prosecutor’s office.

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