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Pennsylvania Summary Offense Expungement FAQ Frequently Asked Questions

This page was designed to help our clients better understand our Pennsylvania Summary Offense Expungement service. You will find answers to the questions we are most frequently asked. If your question is related to eligibility requirements please take the free online eligibility test.

Will my expunged Pennsylvania criminal record still show up on my background check?

Once expunged, all public agencies (such as the court, the prosecuting office, and the police agency or agencies involved) will seal your records. So that neither the arrest or conviction record will appear on a background check that reviews government records.

However, commercial background check companies may take up to one year to update their records to reflect the expungement. We can expedite the updating of commercial background checks companies and reduce the time it takes from about one year to less than 14 days. See our Expedited Record Clearance Update for information on this important step.

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Can the expunged Pennsylvania record still be used against me for a future conviction?

The prosecuting agency and the central repository in Pennsylvania (the Pennsylvania State Police) will keep records of an expunged offense and use the offense for future investigative purposes only, but not for purposes of impeaching your testimony in court or enhancing your sentence for a future offense.

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Do I have to disclose my case ever?

No. Once an arrest or conviction has been expunged, you can legally deny the existence of the offense.

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Can I become a schoolteacher, nurse, or other occupation?

Pennsylvania law specifically prohibits state agencies from considering any conviction that has been expunged in deciding whether to issue a license, certificate, or registration. Furthermore, arrests that have not resulted in a conviction may not be considered, whether or not the arrest has been expunged.

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What if I want to work in a bank?

Section 19 of the FDIA (Federal Deposit Insurance Act) allows banks and other financial institutions to bar prospective and current employees who have had “Breach of Trust” or "Dishonesty" convictions from jobs that they are otherwise qualified for even if they had the conviction expunged.

"Dishonesty" means directly or indirectly to cheat or defraud; to cheat or defraud for monetary gain or its equivalent; or wrongfully to take property belonging to another in violation of any criminal statute. Dishonesty includes acts involving want of integrity, lack of probity, or a disposition to distort, cheat, or act deceitfully or fraudulently, and may include crimes which federal, state or local laws define as dishonest. "Breach of trust" means a wrongful act, use, misappropriation or omission with respect to any property or fund which has been committed to a person in a fiduciary or official capacity, or the misuse of one's official or fiduciary position to engage in a wrongful act, use, misappropriation or omission.

Whether a crime involves dishonesty or breach of trust will be determined from the statutory elements of the crime itself. All convictions for offenses concerning the illegal manufacture, sale, distribution of or trafficking in controlled substances are included. Other offenses can include but is not limited to the following: petty theft, grand theft, insufficient checks, burglary, possession of drugs for distribution or sales, embezzlement, fraud, fraud to obtain aid or benefits and money laundering.

If you believe you have a “breach of trust” or "dishonesty" conviction and were denied a position or were terminated from a financial institution because of that offense, there still is another way to obtain that job with a waiver from the FDIC. Speaking with an attorney about your specific circumstances to see if you would qualify for such a waiver from the FDIC is vital.

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Do I need to hire an attorney or can I proceed with the expungement on my own?

You have an attorney to (1) make sure the process is done right the first time so your case does not get rejected or cost you months of delay (2) handle objections from the district attorney (3) send an attorney to court to argue the case if need be and (4) write letters to potential employers letting them know that the case has been reopened and will soon have the case off of your record.

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Do I have to go to court?

No, we go for you. If the court requests your presence and you are unable to attend, then we will request for your presence to be excused.

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How does the attorney know my case details?

Once you sign up we have you fill out a questionnaire on your personal online account. The questionnaire asks questions that influence the outcome of the case and allows us to argue the case before a judge. Although some of the questions may seem simple, the more information and detail that you provide in your answers the better able we to argue the case in your favor.

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How long does the process take?

Typically, the case takes about five to seven months.

We base our estimates of how long a case will take on how long the average is for that service in that state. However, some cases can take less or more time depending on the facts of the case, whether the DA is agreeing or objecting, the age of the case, etc. We work on your case as fast as we can and assist the court and DA in anything they need to get your case heard.

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Can the process be done faster?

The courts work on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, the sooner you sign up, the sooner your case is heard and decided. If helpful, we will gladly write your employer or potential employer a letter letting them know we have reopened the case and are in the process of having your offense expunged.

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How do I know what is going on with my case?

We have an online tracking system that is just for your case(s). You will have a user name and password for the account, which will have the information specific to the case. Whenever anything happens in your case, we post the information in your online account so that you can view the status of the case and the progress that is made. If there is no post on your online account, then that means that there is no update in the case. For example, once we update your online account to reflect that we have filed the motion with the court we will update the notes when we hear a response from the court or District Attorney. Depending on the court, a case can take several weeks to months to hear from the court or District Attorney whether there is an objection, hearing, or anything else. If something is taking longer than usual for the court, we will call to obtain status of the case and update your online notes. In addition to posting the status updates in your online account, we will post your case information in the case information so you are aware of the case and future hearings.

Moreover, we post your contract and payment plan information on the online account for you so that you can view all the information and print the necessary content.

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What are the details of the guarantee?

If we are unable to succeed on your case, we have a money back guarantee for certain services. Please view the pricing for details regarding the money back guarantee.

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Do you have payment plans?

We can create a payment plan that meets your needs. Please view the pricing for details regarding the payment plans.

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What if I don’t know exactly what is on my record?

We will be glad to work with you to get a copy of your record and to review what can be done. We charge a researching fee and we apply that to the cost of any service that you hire us to perform.

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Does my disposition of guilty or no contest matter?

No, your disposition does not matter. We can expunge your conviction regardless of what you pled as long as that arrest or conviction is eligible for expungement.

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What if I have multiple cases?

If you were not arrested or charged for another offense within five (5) years following the “summary offense” that you want to expunge, then that summary offense is eligible for expungement.

Otherwise, if your offense was not a “summary offense,” you can only expunge under one of the following circumstances:

Your arrest did not result in a conviction. The conviction is under section 6308, title 18 (relating to the purchase, consumption, possession, or transportation of liquor or malt or brewed beverages), and you are least 21. You are at least 70 years old, and have not been arrested or charged with any offense for at least 10 years following the completion of your most recent sentence, or You have been dead for at least three years.

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What is a summary offense?

A summary offense is any offense that is not a felony or misdemeanor. They include very minor offenses like underage drinking, retail theft or obstruction of the highways.

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What is ARD?

ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition and is a court program, typically given to first offenders who are unlikely to commit another crime. If the person successfully completes ARD, then the case is dismissed and the person is considered not convicted of the crime.

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If I was convicted of a felony, can I have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor?

At this time, there does not appear to be any law in Pennsylvania that allows for a felony to be reduced to a lower offense.

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What happens after my case is expunged?

You will receive a court order expunging your conviction. The general public will no longer have access to the records, and state agencies may no longer consider your conviction for any reason even if they find out about the conviction.

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How do the agencies know the expungement was granted?

The court will send the granted order to the Pennsylvania State Police as well as the Department of Transportation, who will then expunge your information from their records. The prosecuting agency and the Pennsylvania State Police may keep records of an expunged offense and use the information from your records for future investigative purposes only, but not for purposes of impeaching your testimony in court or enhancing your sentence for a future offense.

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How long do records take to be updated?

The court updates the court records within 48 hours and the Pennsylvania State Police may take up to 30 days to update their records. The Pennsylvania State Police typically updates their records before the 30 days expire. However, Northampton county takes longer and typically runs six to eight months after the order is granted for all the records to be updated.

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What is the main reason that a request to expunge is denied?

Cases are denied for the following reasons: (1) an inaccuracy in the court file, (2) an inaccuracy in the application, (3) the court does not believe it will be in the interest of society to grant you the expungement, (4) you violated your probation or have not paid all your fines, or (5) you or the offense is otherwise not eligible for expungement.

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What if my case is denied?

If the case is denied, we evaluate the reason for the denial and determine the best way to proceed. If we do not believe that refiling would be successful or we recommend the person wait longer to refile, then there is the money back guarantee for certain services.

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Will an expungement relieve me of the requirement to register?

No. An offense that requires sex offender registration would not be eligible for expungement. So, the fact that you get other non-sex offenses expunged would have no effect on your requirement to register if you have sex offenses that require registration.

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Will expungement clean up my DMV record?

Yes. An expungement order will require the Department of Transportation to expunge all of its administrative records pertaining to that offense.

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Will my record prohibit me from visiting Canada?

If you have been convicted of minor offenses (including assault, dangerous driving, DUI, theft, shoplifting, unauthorized possession of firearms, possession of illegal substances, etc.) or indictable criminal offenses (including assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, etc.) you may be prohibited from entrance into Canada and further action will be required to find out whether you will be allowed entrance. The Canadian government has entered into an information sharing agreement with the United States, so the Canadian government will have whatever information the United States has on file. Therefore, the first thing you should do is clear your criminal record to the fullest extent possible before submitting to a background check. The benefit of setting aside will show the Canadian government that the matter was resolved and no longer considered a conviction and improve the odds of not being denied entry to Canada or being stuck at the border for lengthy interrogation.

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Can I get a Sentri pass?

The Border Patrol has discretion in granting or denying Sentri passes. So, the only thing we can say for sure is that it would help; investing in record clearing before applying for a pass would be advantageous. A modest investment in getting a set aside could be the difference between having your request accepted or denied. The set aside will show that you have resolved all matters with the court.

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Can I vote after the expungement is granted?

In Pennsylvania, a person can register to vote the moment he is released from incarceration. You lose your right to serve on a jury if you have ever been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year prison. This right can only be restored through a governor's pardon. You lose your right to hold public office (elected/appointed office) if you've been convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, perjury or “other infamous crime” (any felony basically). This, too, can only be restored through a governor's pardon.

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Will an expungement help with immigration?

Criminal violations may have severe consequences for immigrants, even if the crime is expunged/vacated/sealed. Even minor offenses such as petty theft can make someone deportable or inadmissible, while more serious offenses such as burglary may not have the same consequences. Since each case is unique, getting a case-by-case analysis tailored to your specific facts is imperative. To find out if your criminal conviction will impact your immigration case, contacting a qualified immigration attorney is vital. Our in-house immigration attorney is available to answer questions at 714-617-8395.

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Can I clear my federal conviction?

You can only expunge certain cases. Typically, you have to show that the conviction was wrongful or unconstitutional. Additionally, a person can apply for a pardon through the President. We do not handle federal cases.

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Will an expungement restore my right to own a firearm?

There is a separate process under Pennsylvania state law in which you can petition a court to restore your gun rights if they have been taken away. Getting an expungement does not automatically restore your gun rights.

Furthermore, under federal law there is a lifetime ban on gun ownership for all those convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense (as defined by the federal law). The federal definition is different than most state's definition, so your domestic violence conviction in Pennsylvania might not trigger the federal law. Again, getting an expungement will not automatically lift the federal ban if the ban applies to you.

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Who can serve on a jury in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you may serve on a jury if you: 1) are able to read, speak, and write the English language, 2) have not been convicted of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year unless you have been pardoned (42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4502(a)(3)), 3) are physically and mentally able to perform the functions of a juror, 4) are a United States citizen at the time that you are summoned, 5) are a resident of the county by which you are summoned and are at least eighteen years of age.


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The first step towards a better life begins with finding out if you are eligible for Pennsylvania Summary Offense Expungement.

FREE Eligibility Test


Call us at 412-568-1432 or Toll Free (877) 573-7273
Please take the free online eligibility test before calling.

Law Firm of Higbee & Associates
501 Cambria Ave., Mailbox #332
Bensalem, PA 19020
*By Appointment Only

We handle cases in Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bradford, Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mckean, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland, Wyoming and York counties.