A criminal record can hold you back in life, but an expungement can help you put it behind you. By sealing the state records of an arrest or conviction, an expungement can help you pass an employment background check, continue your education or even rent a nicer home.
Only certain offenses qualify for expungement, and individuals must meet certain criteria if they want the state of Pennsylvania to seal part or all of their criminal record. Recent changes to the law could mean that you have the opportunity to pursue an expungement and move on from a mistake that has likely limited your options for years.
Do you qualify for an expungement?
Expungements are available for those arrested but not convicted of an offense. It can be possible to remove the public record of the arrest that could show up during a comprehensive background check. For those who actually plead guilty or get convicted of an offense, only certain scenarios allow for an expungement.
The offense can generally only be a second- or third-degree misdemeanor for an expungement to be an option. The sentence for the offense can be no longer than two years of incarceration. You will also have to maintain a clean record with no new convictions for at least 10 years for an expungement.
Special circumstances can disqualify you from an expungement
Even if the offense and sentence involved in your situation meet the criteria set by state law, you may still not qualify for punishment. If you have had four or more previous convictions that carried a punishment of a year of incarceration or more, you likely won’t qualify.
Those who retaliated against others and those who lied or threatened others during a child abuse investigation won’t be eligible. Any offense that requires registration as a sex offender disqualifies people, as do offenses involving the sexual abuse of animals, simple assault or impersonation of a public servant.
How have expungements changed?
Under the prior system, expungement requires that police departments completely remove the record of an arrest or conviction. Under the new law, the information about the arrest doesn’t get removed but rather is no longer accessible by the public. This approach has the same effect for the person seeking the expungement because it will keep that issue from showing up on a background check.
Determining if you qualify and following all the necessary steps for an expungement can be difficult. With the right help, you could tackle this complex process and leave your long-ago criminal mistake in your past.