If a person has been charged with or convicted of a crime, this leaves records. Unfortunately, a person’s criminal record can keep them from various types of opportunities. A criminal record can significantly impact a person’s ability to gain employment, attend school, obtain various state or federal licenses or certifications, and more. However, there are ways for a person to expunge or seal their records. Here, we want to discuss the difference between expungement and sealing when it comes to criminal records in Pennsylvania.
Key Differences Between Expungement and Record Sealing
It is possible for a person to have the records of their criminal case sealed. This means that no one will be able to view the contents of their records without a court order. However, this does not make the records go away altogether.
Expungement, on the other hand, is the process that could allow a person to have their criminal files removed from the record entirely. The laws regarding the sealing of records and expungement vary widely from state to state.
The key difference between a sealed record and expunged record is that a sealed record will still exist. Expungement will result in the deletion of any arrest or criminal charge that the person incurred. Sealed records are often the standard procedure for juvenile criminal proceedings, but this will occur when a person turns 18.
How Does Expungement Happen?
An expungement is not necessarily automatic in Pennsylvania. When we turn to Pennsylvania Law § 9122, we can see that certain persons can seek permission to have their criminal records removed from their files. There are various convictions that can be expunged in the Commonwealth.
First, it is important to point out that even if a person wins their case in court, they may still need to file a motion to have their record expunged. In Pennsylvania, the expungement for a non-conviction is automatic after 18 months, but this can be a long time if a person is looking for employment or wants to apply to colleges in the meantime.
Non-convictions include not guilty verdict, withdrawal of charges, a case dismissal, or a nolle prosequi (do not prosecute). This can also include the acceptance and completion of various types of diversion programs.
Additionally, Pennsylvania courts will allow certain convictions to be expunged from a person’s record. These convictions include:
- Any conviction of a summary offense after five years have passed, so long as a defendant has remained free from any arrests or prosecution during that time
- Underage drinking offenses
- Violation of probation cases without a verdict
- First-time drug offenses
- If a person is over 70 years old with no arrests over the past ten years
- If a person receives a pardon
Do you Need an Attorney to Help With the Sealing or Expungement of Records?
If you or somebody you know has been charged with or convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, then there will be a criminal record attached to the charge or conviction. Criminal records can dramatically impact a person’s life. A skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can help when it comes to getting these records cleared. The sealing of a juvenile record is usually automatic, but an attorney needs to help make sure this happens. Additionally, an expungement attorney can help review every aspect of the situation, make sure that paperwork is submitted for the expungement process, and make sure that the expungement happens as it is supposed to.