Learn the answers to the most commonly asked questions about expunging a record in Pennsylvania. The quickest way to determine if you are eligible for expungement is to take our free online expungement eligibility test. Click on any questions below to see their answers.
Simply click on a question to see its answer:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No. Once an arrest or conviction has been expunged, you can legally deny the existence of the offense.
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.
No, not for most offenses. An expungement will clear the criminal records that relate to the offense. In the case of a DUI for which you received ARD, the Department of Transportation can keep the DUI on your driving record for 10 years. An expungement of an underage drinking offense will remove all administrative records of the Department of Transportation relating to said conviction
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your juvenile records are not automatically expunged. Therefore, the records of the arrest and court case may be visible to the public, including the exact offenses charged and the disposition of the case. By having the records expunged, the records are completely destroyed and erased from the system.
When a potential employer or other entity conducts a criminal background check, they can uncover records of prior arrests and dispositions if they have not been expunged. Expungement removes the information so that there is no trace or indication that such information existed. Therefore, your record will not show on a background check.
Yes, the case can still be used in proceedings involving subsequent juvenile charges, after adjudication of delinquency and in limited civil cases. Additionally, the District Attorney and Central Repository may maintain a list of the names and criminal history of individuals who successfully completed the conditions of any pretrial or post-trial diversion or probation program. Such information shall only be used for the purpose of determining subsequent eligibility for such programs and for identification in criminal investigations.
You do not have to disclose the case. You may answer with confidence to any inquiry that you have not been convicted of a crime.
Yes, in certain case specific situations you can have your fingerprints, DNA samples, or photographs expunged as well.
If you want to join the US military, then your becomes a matter of federal law, not Pennsylvania state law. All branches of the military will want to know about your juvenile offenses, even if they have been expunged. There is still a risk of being discharged from the military if you don’t tell them and they later find out about your record. You should always disclose your conviction, but also mention that your case was taken before a judge and was deemed in the interest of justice to expunge/seal the record from public view.
Once your juvenile records have been expunged, your record will not show any convictions, and you can deny any existence of your record on any application, including an application to become a police officer. Thus, the chances that anyone would be able to know about your juvenile record is highly unlikely.
Your probation officer and the court are required to say that they have no record of your arrest or adjudication.
If you are over 18 years old and five years has not passed since the adjudication, then the DA must consent. However, if five years have passed since the adjudication then the judge can still grant the expungement even if the DA does not consent.
In determining whether to grant the expungement, the judge will consider the type of offense, age, history of employment, drug and alcohol problems, adverse consequences that the individual will suffer if the records are not expunged (for example: individual’s reputation, his livelihood and future earnings capacity) and the state’s interest preserving the record to protect the public.
Typically, the case takes about six to eight months.
We base our estimates of how long a case will take on how long the average is for that service in that state. Some cases, however, 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.
No, your disposition does not matter. We can expunge your juvenile adjudication regardless of what you pled.
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 then we may recommend the person wait longer to refile.
No. You must separately apply to have your gun rights restored. See Pennsylvania gun restoration requirements. Additionally there is also a lifetime prohibition from the United States government (Lautenberg Amendment to the Violence Against Women Act), which prohibits firearm ownership of those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence as defined by the federal law. Expungement in Pennsylvania does not lift the federal prohibition.